An island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. The country occupies an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited, and 522 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population. The first people of Fiji arrived long before contact with European explorers in the seventeenth century. Pottery excavated from Fijian towns shows that Fiji was settled before or around 1000 BC, although the question of Pacific migration still lingers.The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited Fiji in 1643 while looking for the Great Southern Continent. It was not until the nineteenth century, however, that Europeans settled the islands permanently.The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874, and the British brought over Indian contract labourers. It was granted independence in 1970.