Little Kanak Girl at natural beach of Maré Island, Loyality Islands, New Caledonia. Black and White Portrait. The Kanak people are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia an overseas collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific. The word ‘Kanak’ is derived from kanaka maoli, a hawaiian word which was applied indiscriminately by European explorers and missionaries in Oceania to any non-European Pacific islander. The population of Maré Island (Île Maré), a small 42 km long and 16 to 33 km wide island, is about 6900 people, of mainly Melanesian heritage, less than 2% of the population is of European ancestry. Maré Island is a small raised coral atoll, a former atoll that has been lifted about 120 meters.