Malekula - History and Cultural Relations

The first sustained contact between South West Bay inhabitants and Europeans began in 1896 when a Presbyterian missionary settled there. As the missionary's power and following grew, the incidence of interethnic and intervillage warfare—previously an integral part of local life—declined, and by 1960, all people from Mewun and Seniang had moved into mission villages. Laus has remained, for the most part, unconverted, although a few people from this region have moved into Mewun and Seniang villages on the bay in the last decade or so. Colonization followed missionization as religious representatives inspired political interest in the region and the islands became the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides in 1906. For seventy-four years the country had two colonial governments and three official languages (English, French, and Melanesian Pidgin). There also were dual or parallel systems in nearly every domain—judicial, educational, monetary, and medical. This political arrangement, sometimes called the "Pandemonium," often operated roughly or ineptly, thereby leaving local people much autonomy. In 1980, after electing a government, the condominium became the nation of Vanuatu.

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