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South Seas

Christianity in this area began with Jesuit missionaries to the Marianas (1668-1769). There are tantalizing hints of Catholic influence in the Marquesas, Hawaii, and parts of Melanesia before rapid expansion of European contacts in the nineteenth century. Protestant missions began with the London Missionary Society in Tahiti and Tonga in 1797, at a time when many Polynesians were dissatisfied with traditional social and religious patterns and willing to undergo major changes to take advantage of the new horizons opened by Europeans. In Hawaii, Kamehameha I (1735-1819) made important political changes, and his wife Kaahumanu and son Liholiho overthrew traditional religion before American missionaries were admitted on trial (1820) after careful consultation with Tahitians about their experience. The Gilbertese similarly rejected their traditional culture for literacy and Christianity in 1868-69.