Kanak (formerly also Canaque) are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific.
Kanak comprise about 44 percent of the total population of New Caledonia. The term “Kanak” is derived from kanaka maoli, a Hawaiian word that was once used indiscriminately by European explorers, traders and missionaries to refer to any non-European Pacific islander. Prior to European contact there was no unified state in New Caledonia, and no single self-appellation used to refer to its inhabitants.
The Kanak, who call their island Kanaky, are primarily subsistence fishermen and farmers. After their struggle to claim political independence failed in the mid-1980s, the Kanak obtained French recognition of their cultural identity through the 1988 Matignon Accord.
Since the mid-1990s, huge nickel mining industry projects haveve been undertaken by multinational companies such as Canadian INCO Ltd and Falconbridge, despite major opposition from the Kanak.