There are roughly 2000 inhabitants, 95% of whom are Melanesians or Kanaks. For traditional, cultural and social reasons, these indigenous Kunie people are formed into eight tribes, each with their own ‘little chief’ and governed as a whole by a High Chief.

The island is divided rather like a cake and the Kunies live scattered around the island in their own tribal area, mainly in order to cultivate their yams. Many of them also live in the only village, Vao, where the schools (kindergarten, primary and secondary) are to be found, as well as the church, the Town Hall, a medical centre (doctor, nurses, dentist and a mid-wife), a pharmacy, a general store, the market, a bank and the post office.


While the Kunies speak their own unwritten language amongst themselves, French is the official language in schools, business, administrative affairs and tourism. English is not widely practised, but in key tourist spots someone will usually speak fairly fluent English and others may have a smattering. Whether you speak French or not, visitors often remark on the friendliness of the local people and their readiness to say Bonjour.

The spontaneous smile and a woven hat

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Vao

Distribution of the new, blessed yam harvest, March 19th, 2020

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Vao

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Vao


How many tribes
are there on Isle of Pines ?
What is the name of the village ?
  The authors and webmaster thank the population of Isle of Pines for its collaboration in producing this site.
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