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TongaThe name Tonga simply means "south" in the Tongan language as the islands are in southern Polynesia.


Although Tonga may seem like a forgotten country, it is actually at the heart of one of the world's most well-known cultures. The Tongans are Polynesian and much of Polynesian culture originated, or passed through Tonga at some point. As a regional power in the past, Tonga spread their influence to as far as Hawai'i, New Zealand, and French Polynesia. Of course, today the world has also altered the culture in Tonga as modern technology and communication make life in the country very different than it was in the past.

The first people to arrive and settle Tonga came thousands of years ago. A few waves of people arrived over time, eventually creating the ancestors of today's Tongans, which is commonly referred to as the Polynesian people. These people lived off the land and sea as they hunted, fished, and gathered or grew foods. The lifestyle of these people was focused on survival as the people lived day to day with few to no luxuries. Today the people of Tonga still remain closely tied to the lands as much of the historic lifestyle in this regard remains somewhat true.

These people also developed a significant culture as they spoke Tongan, a Polynesian language, they created foods that are still common today, and they also formed various social, political, and religious structures. These changes led to the growth of Tonga in the 900, creating an empire that lasted until the 1500s. During this time Tonga ruled much of the greater Polynesian region, rapidly spreading their influence to other islands, while also adopting foreign ideas. This exchange of ideas formed the base of the Polynesian culture that can still be seen in various forms across this geographically huge area.

The islands turned inward after the fall of this empire, but the Europeans arrived soon after, again forever altering the culture of the people. Although Europeans arrived earlier, it was the heavy British influence in the 1800s that forever changed the people. This change began with missionaries, who converted most of the people to Christianity, which they remain today. British influence spread quickly with local allies on the island as advanced technology and communication were introduced to the people and today most people speak English as a second language.

The British, like those before them, changed the culture and lifestyle on Tonga, but Tonga remains at the core of Polynesian culture. Although technology is available, people speak English, and nearly everyone is Christian, the people maintain aspects of their historic foods, culture, and lifestyle as life continues to be focused on family, the lands, and the seas.

Tonga's flag is based on the country's Christian population. The red represents the blood of Christ, white signifies purity, and the cross reflects the people's Christian religion.

Name: Kingdom of Tonga
Independence: June 4, 1970
Capital: Nuku'alofa
Currency: Pa'anga
Population: 106,322 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Polynesian
Language: Tongan & English
Religion: Protestant & Others

Information for Tonga was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks