Nauru was originally settled by Melanesians and Polynesians. Tradition holds that among the earliest settlers were castaways from another island, probably Kiribati. The name ‘Nauru’ is a European corruption of ‘A-nao-ero’, which means ‘I am going to the beach to lay my bones’. The island has had little contact with its neighbours, enabling its distinctive language to survive. By the 18th century the society was organized into 12 matrilineal tribes, each headed by a different chief.
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