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Federation Na-Griamel (Vanuatu)

Na-Griamel secessionist movement

Last modified: 2021-05-15 by ian macdonald
Keywords: federation na-griamel | na-griamel | independentist |
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[Na-Griamel League (Vanuatu)] image by Ralf Stelter, 13 December 2000

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On 27th December 1975 the Northern islands (Aoba, Maewo, Banks, Torres and Espiritu Santo) proclaimed the independence of the Federation Na Griamel (taken from the name of two plants: the nangaria and the namele). The Federation adopted a national flag, blue with an emblem in the center and the name above the emblem, ratio 1:2. The status quo ante was re-established in 1977, and the Movement went back to the struggle on 28th May 1980 with the help of French colonists and I assume that also of the French secret service (because the Anglophone movement won the elections of the last month of 1979).
Jaume Ollé, 10 June 1998

In the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart appears "172. Na-Griamel League (Separatist Movement, 1963-1980) - Vanuatu." Blue field with NA-GRIAMEL in white letters along the upper side and a white star nearly touching the lower side. In the middle, a black-white shake-hands topped with four green leaves and a white fruit (?).
Ivan Sache, 17 September 1999

The correct design of the Na-Griamel banner, was 2:3 or 3:5 in medium blue. The plant is the Namele, a kind of fern. Four green leaves and the inflorescence in white, all with black lines. The image on the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart is correct.
Ralf Stelter
, 10-13 December 2000

First Party flags

Source: From the New Hebrides to Vanuatu: A Vexillological Excursion], by Michel Lupant – 14th International Congress of Vexilology, Barcelona - 30 June-5 July 1991 [Lup91]

[Tanna] image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021
Image after Michel Lupant's drawing and description.

In 1974 Paris and London decided to enact measures allowing residents of the condominium to "progress on the way of democracy and economic progress and social and respond to legitimate aspirations of the inhabitants to take a greater responsibility in business management". The exchange of letters between the two capitals, dated August 29, 1975 will create an Assembly of the New Hebrides. Two parties will emerge in local politics, the Nagriamel Movement and the National Party.
The Nagriamel movement, led by Jimmy Stevens, was born in 1963 to oppose the French planters; it was in part a political party, a movement for agrarian reform, and cult of cargo movement. At the same time, Chief Buluk and bush inhabitants migrated to Santo and settled in Vanafo, 24 km north of the city of Santo, on land belonging to a French company: "La Société Française des Nouvelles-Hébrides". Nagriamel was born officially in 1966, Chief Buluk was joined by Jimmy Stevens and in August the flag was raised. Stevens says the movement was born because during World War II the lowland inhabitants in the east of Espiritu Santo had to cede their land to the Americans, for military reasons. They should have recovered these land at the end of the war but planters settled there more and more. The name Nagriamel comes from two plants, Nangaria, whose meaning is to stand in honor, and represents a male symbol and a beautiful women; and Namele, plant still used for delimiting property, also a sexual feminine symbol; it also symbolizes the return to peace and order after World War II. The two plants together
symbolize Unity.
In 1974, a vexillologist reportedly saw a flag of this party, during a broadcast in color television. This flag is blue, in dovetail. Along the hoist a vertical row of yellow stars and chevrons in red. In the fly, the name of the party, at the top, and the name of the country at the bottom (probably in white. (source: Flag Bulletin XV, pages 155/156. Reconstruction by Lucien Philippe.) The stars and chevrons are a reminiscent of badges worn by soldiers Americans of World War II.
Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

[Tanna] image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021
Image after Michel Lupant's drawing and description

Another flag dating probably from this period has been reported: medium blue, the emblem consisting of a red boomerang surmounted by a white flower surrounded by four light blue leaves, above a white star and chevrons, respectively from top to bottom, white, red, light blue, white. The flag has the same reference to military badges. The inscriptions are white, they probably mean: "Nagriamel / News Hebrides "(N.G.N.H.);" Union of the Communities of the New Hebrides"(U.C.);" Self-sufficiency and Independence "(S. & I.).
Source: Communication, undated and without reference, from Whitney Smith, Flag Research Center.’
Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

Na-Griamel Federation flag

First description

[Na-Griamel League (Vanuatu)] image by Ralf Stelter, 13 December 2000

Source: From the New Hebrides to Vanuatu: A Vexillological Excursion], by Michel Lupant – 14th International Congress of Vexilology, Barcelona - 30 June-5 July 1991 [Lup91]

The Vanuuaku Pati ("Our Land Party") (VAP) was created in 1972 at the initiative of the British residence, under the name of National Party. It brought together the elite formed by the Presbyterian and Anglican missions and was characterized by Francophobia long encouraged by the conservative reflexes of the French residency. Its aimed to lead the country to independence. It would become the VAP in 1976. The condominium authorities set the elections for the Assembly on November 10, 1975, and the National Party, present everywhere, was in the majority in all constituencies, except in Port-Vila, Tanna and Aoba. But frauds having been noted in Luganville, the ballot was canceled. A second ballot resulted in an assembly composed of equal parts of elected nationalists and moderates, the VAP considered itself deprived of its victory, and preferred to put itself outside the political and institutional game, boycotting the work of the Assembly. In reaction, the superior council of Islands of the North proclaimed on December 27, 1975, the independence of the Na-Griamel Federation. The islands which were part of it are Espiritu Santo, Aoba, Maewo, Banks and Torres. The Na-Griamel party having won the municipal elections in August 1975, accused the National Party of fraud when it won the elections of November 1975. The leaders of the Na-Griamel movement were also opposed to the introduction of a style of too modern life that would disrupt Melanesian customs. They were helped in their business by a group of Americans, related with the Phoenix Foundation, who wanted the disappearance of government influence on social aspects and economic to leave complete freedom to the private sector.
The flag of the Federation was blue, the party emblem in the center (source: "The Fiji Times" Friday, January 16, 1976, (second century N° 1969), cover page. It could be that the emblem under both hands is a star, unfortunately the drawing published in the newspaper is cut at this level.
Communication from W. Smith, Flag Research Center. Drawing by Ralf Stelter, Archiv fur Flaggenkunde). Hands shaking symbolize harmony between races and Market economy. The leaves of two local plant "nangaria" and "namele" refer to the name of the state. The blue color represents the Pacific Ocean. The lateral leaves are green, the central peduncle is white. The name "Nagriamel" is in white.’

Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

 "15 stars" flag of the Na-Griamel Federation

However, another source gives us more details about the flag of Nagriamel, and even a picture of the representation of the flag on a panel. As stated by Michel Lupant, the view of the flag published in the Fiji Times and reported by Whitney Smith was not complete.

Source: In The powers of custom in Vanuatu - traditionalism and nation-building, by Marc Kurt TABANI, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2002

Nagriamel headquarters is one of the only solid buildings in the village. This sort of town hall in Vanafo faces the traditional center of the village, at the foot of the banyan tree where public meetings are held. A few steps away is the memorial of the movement: surrounded by a hedge of nangaria and namele, the central pole lets fly the flag of Nagriamel, accompanied by fifteen other poles with blue flags covered with a white star symbolizing the fifteen islands of Nagriamel.
The most active aid to Nagriamel since the course of 1975 came from the American billionaire Michael Oliver and his Phoenix Foundation (1). Oliver's influence on Stevens and logistical support from the Phoenix Foundation enabled the formation of a Federation of Self-Governed Communities of Nagriamel on December 27, 1975, and the programming of the independence of the Northern Islands. This federation was supposed to include Santo and its islets, except the urban center of Luganville; all the neighboring islands, Aore, Lalo, Aoba, and Maewo; all the islands belonging to the Banks and Torres group; as well as all the other groupings of the New Hebrides which wished to join the federation, as a free and independent people. Stevens had prepared a constitution, with the help of lawyers from the Phoenix Foundation, and also received from that organization all the material symbols of a sovereign state. A currency was minted, passports and constitutions printed, a flag was chosen. Radio Vanafo received technical means and assistance to extend its broadcasting. Finally, the transfers of funds to develop the administrative structure of Nagriamel and create a federal bank became more substantial. Some former members of Jimmy Stevens' close guard piously preserve some relics of Nagriamel's glorious past. Passports are of the same invoice as any other such document. They simply bear the Nagriamel Federation mention and are stamped with the movement's logo: a bouquet of stylized nangaria and namele leaves, placed on a five-pointed star, below which is a black hand and a white hand clasped (on the flag of the movement, this logo is surrounded by the fifteen stars of the fifteen Nagriamel Islands). The symbolism of this emblem is presented in the Nagriamel proclamation of independence as embodying the philosophy of the movement. (2)

(1) Moses Olitsky of his real name, Oliver was a Lithuanian Jew, survivor of the Nazi camps, who made his fortune in the United States, and put it to contribution for his unwavering cause: the creation of a state associating libertarian ideological principles and the ultra-liberalism of the market economy. For him, the United States of the 1970s had definitely become a "fascist socialist state" (Oliver, quoted by Van Trease, 1987). Before he became interested in the case of Santo in Nagriamel, he tried twice to seize an island to found a new state there where the legal provisions contained in his work published in 1966 under the title “New Constitution for a New Country”. His first attempt took the form of creating a "Republic of Minerva" on a coral reef belonging to the Kingdom of Tonga. The second was to expedite a secession from Abaco Island to the Bahamas. But for Oliver in Santo the odds of success became serious: "In comparison to Abaco, we found the people of Nagriamel to be exceptionally well organized" (Oliver, cited by Plant, 1977: 54).

(2) This proclamation of independence dated September 27, 1975 and signed by Stevens "under the authority of the Upper Council of Federation of Nagriamel ”, declares : « We, the people of the various New Hebrides islands, do hereby declare, by accordance with the United Nations Resolution Number 1514, of 14 December 1975, our independence from any foreign country. Our islands were never under sovereignty of any other nation, and we were never a colony of any nation. The authority for our action comes not only from United Nations Resolution Number 1514 but, also, from the demand by our people for independence. We can provide authentic results of a poll taken recently, which we offer any neutral nation for inspection and verification. Our new nation is a federation of settlements and the government is elected in accordance with fair democratic principles. We are dedicated to the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of race, creed or religion. All rights and individual belongings shall be fully protected and defended. Our boundaries are as follow : 1/ All the Islands of Santo, excepting Luganville, until it wish to join us. 2/ All of the islands surrounding Santo, including Aore, Malo, Aoba, Maewo and Sako. 3/ All of the islands in the Banks and Torres Groups of the New Hebrides. 4/ Any other settlements in the New Hebrides wishing to join us and to enjoy the rights as free and independent people. We are firm in our belief that the races of the world should cooperate and that all people should live in peace and harmony. And, for this reason, our emblem includes not only our traditional Na-Griamel sign but, also, a handshake between people of all races. This emblem is now on our flag and shall be placed on all of our official documents. Our new nation shall be known as the NA-GRIAMEL FEDERATION, and our independence is effective immediately. We extend greetings to all countries of the world».
Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

[Tanna] image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021
Reconstructed flag after the gathering of these elements.

The 15 stars surrounding the NaGriamel emblem (with the hands under the main white star) can be seen painted on a panel in:, Histoire politique du Nagriamel à Santo (Vanuatu) by Marc Kurt TABANI, in Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 113, année 2001-2.
p. 164
If this is an accurate representation of the flag, its ratio is about 10:12.

Nota Bene - The flag of Ngriamel was still in use in the 1990s:
Franky Stevens, son of Jimmy Stevens, claims both the legitimacy of a modern politician, a successor to his father at the head of Nagriamel and of a customary chief from Vanafo. The village has also been raised to the rank of symbol (…) While it remains fairly populated and its inhabitants appear to be active, part of the site has nevertheless been spectacularly museum-oriented, its new purpose being that of a tourist attraction. From Luganville, we go to Vanafo by taxi or mini-van (…) Franky has a habit of welcoming warmly the tourists who, every day, can attend a raising of the Nagriamel flags in an enclosure planted with namele and nangaria, maintained by women dressed in leaf skirts, although the rest of the population is dressed in the West. As the tourists arrive, Franky and Jimmy Stevens' former bodyguard hasten to put on their Nagriamel crest, then guide visitors to the ruins intentionally left as the former Office Board of the Nagriamel, where Radio Vemarana was installed, then sacked by Papuan troops. The highlight of the visit to Vanafo is formed by the grave of Jimmy Stevens, dug in his hut, where the body, remained in the open air after undergoing a process of desiccation, rests under a flower bed. Stevens' personal effects are on display in the hut: his modern costumes are impeccably suspended from the partitions, girdled with scarves in the colors of the Nagriamel-Confederation indicating the position of Chief Minister of Stevens.
Source: The powers of custom in Vanuatu - traditionalism and nation-building, by Marc Kurt TABANI, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2002
Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

 "Royal standard" of Na-Griamel

[Tanna] image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021

Caption of the picture: "NaKriamel Muvman Roiel Flak. An interesting vestige from the Jimmy Stevens days. Apparently the 15 stars represent his 15 wives."

The 15 stars are of course known as representing, in fact, the 15 islands of the Na-Griazmel federation.
Olivier Touzeau, 2 April 2021