|National motto: Tuvalu mo te Atua (Tuvaluan: "Tuvalu for the Almighty")|
|Official languages||Tuvaluan, English|
|Prime minister||Lagitupu Tuilimu[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 191st |
- Total (Year)
|Independence||October 1, 1978|
|Time zone||UTC +12|
|National anthem||Tuvalu mo te Atua|
Tuvalu, inhabited since the beginning of the first millennium BC, was first visited by Europeans in 1568, with the arrival of Alvaro de Mendana y Neyra[?] from Spain. Although no settlements were established, slave traders and whalers came to the islands infrequently. In 1892, the islands became part of the British protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands[?], with Tuvalu being called the Ellice Islands. The protectorate became a colony in 1915.
In 1974, ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands[?] to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (later Kiribati). The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978.
The local parliament, or Fale I Fono has 12 members and is chosen every 4 years. Its members elect a prime minister, who is the head of government.
Although Tuvalu technically has no administrative subdivisions - its population is too small - the country can be divided into 9 islands, or rather atolls. Originally, only eight of these islands were inhabited, hence the name Tuvalu, which means "eight islands" in Tuvaluan language. The nine islands are:
Being one of the smallest countries in the world, Tuvalu also has very poor lands. There is almost no potable water, and the soil is hardly usable for agriculture.
In 2001, Tuvalu's government announced that the islands, whose highest point is 5 m above sea level, may need to be evacuated in the event of rising sea levels. New Zealand has agreed to accept an annual quota of evacuees, while Australia has refused the Tuvaluans' petitions.
Tuvalu has almost no natural resources, and its main form of income consists of foreign aid. Main industries are fishing and tourism, even though due to the remote location of the islands only a small number of tourists arrives annually.
The small population of Tuvalu is almost entirely of Polynesian ethnicity. About 97% of the Tuvaluans is a member of the Church of Tuvalu, a protestant Christian church. The religion has been mixed with some elements of the indigenous religions.
The traditional community system still to a large extent still survives on Tuvalu. Each family has its own task, or salanga, to perform for the community, such as fishing, house building or defence. The skills of a family are passed on from father to son.