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First Settlement

People first came to the islands we now call Vanuatu from the north and west, about 3500 years ago. We know little about those brave explorers and their descendants, the first ni-Vanuatu, but we may guess that they had little of what we now call “government”. They probably were organised in groups no bigger than a village, with a bigman or chief, and perhaps a sorcerer (magician), to keep the affairs of the people in order. The smaller islands or groups may have had one “chief of chiefs” (highest grade chief) or island councils. Men love to talk of power, and to make themselves important, everywhere in the world. But just as the languages of Vanuatu grew into many different languages, different islands may have developed different forms of government, a chief here, a council there, maybe even assemblies of the whole community, or powerful women. So “devolution” – limited self-government for different parts of the country – may not be such a foreign idea. And over more than 2400 years, customs certainly changed.