New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific, has been part of France since 1853, when it was founded as a penal colony. Once freed, ex-convicts were encouraged to stay and settle, working as farmers or mine workers in the newborn nickel industry. Hostilities arose between the native Melanesian population, the Kanaks, and the French settlers as they began to encroach on tribal lands. After a century of, at times, bloody confrontation, an agreement was reached in 1998 allowing autonomy for the island. A referendum for independence will be called in 2014.