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The ni-Vanuatu people follow traditional custom, or 'kastom'. Much of the tradition is secret, and passed down through the generations. Traditional life is an ongoing cycle of ritual from birth, initiation, marriage and death.

Vanuatu was first settled over 5000 years ago from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Since that time, each island has developed its own traditions, which make for great diversity today.

In 1606, the first western contact was made by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand de Quiros. The islands were later explored, mapped and named 'New Hebrides' by Captain James Cook in 1792. Whalers, blackbirders, missionaries and planters followed. The French and British planters brought in Vietnamese labourers to work their coffee and cocoa plantations. Christian missionaries arrived in the mid 1800s.

In 1887, Britain and France formed a joint naval commission to administer the islands and in 1906 this was formalised into a joint territorial administration, called a 'condominium', with each country having jurisdiction over its own citizens.

During the second World War, 100,000 soldiers from the United States were stationed on Espiritu Santo while waiting to join the fighting in the Solomon Islands.

The country achieved independence in 1980, but only after a short-lived revolt on Espiritu Santo quelled by the British.

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