50,000 years ago Australoid migrants from Southeast Asia arrived in New Guinea and Australia, back when both islands formed one land.
10,000 years ago, rising waters cut off the two masses, leaving Australian Aboriginals in their Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) culture until modern times.
3,000 BC, broad-nosed, light-skinned Austronesians from Indonesia and the Philippines settled in New Guinea, and the Melanesian Islands including ones as far away as Fiji. They mixed with the Papuans to become the Melanesians of today. Over time people continued to migrate from Southeast Asia and China into Indonesia. The Austronesian language is still spoken in Madagascar, Indonesia, Easter Island, and Hawaii.
3,500 years ago, early Polynesians set out on a migratory trek to explore their Polynesian islands. They sailed in double-hulled canoes with pandanus sails and huge paddles. Sailing against prevailing winds, they reached and settled as follows:
- Bismarck Archipelago 1500 BC
- Tonga 1300 BC
- Samoa 1000 BC
- Marquesas 300 AD
- Solomon, Fiji and Easter Islands 500 AD
- New Zealand and Cook Islands 900 AD
And then came the Europeans
- Spaniards and Portuguese 1500s
- Dutch 1600s
- English 1700s
And then came the colonization
- Australia 1788
- New Zealand 1840
- Tahiti (by the French) 1842
- New Caledonia 1853
- Fiji 1874
- Samoa 1899
The construction of Panama 1884
The Japanese occupation of French Indochina 1941
WWII which created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which split them up among the conquering Allies until their independence mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. After WWII, colonization turned to new regionalism:
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- West Samoa
- Cook Islands
- American Samoa
In other notables
- In 1985 the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior was bombed in New Zealand.
- Consumerism has caught up in the Pacific with outboards replacing outriggers, Coca-colas replacing coconuts, and processed foods replacing fiber-rich fresh foods.
- Smoking is also prevalent with 50% of Pacific Islander males smoking as well as 88% of Fiji males smoking.
Cite: Stanley, D., South Pacific Handbook.