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The native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492 were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years.
In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. An interim government took office in 2004 to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.
1665 - French colonization of the island was officially recognized
1697 - In the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally ceded the western third of the island to France
1795 - In the Treaty of Basel, Spain ceded the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, later to become the Dominican Republic
1802 - Thousands of the French troops sent by Napoleon to reestablish slavery succumbed to yellow fever during the summer months, and more than half of the French army died because of disease 1804 - The leaders of the revolution declared western Hispaniola the new nation of independent Haiti but France continued to rule Spanish Santo Domingo