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Given that politics in New Caledonia essentially have revolved around support for independence or for staying with France, with fragmentation in recent years within each camp, my objective is to look, not as an anthropologist, but as a political analyst, at the progression of concepts of indigenous ethnic identity and nationalism in New Caledonia within the context of French colonisation, which is how such concepts crystallised and continue to evolve there. I focus particularly on the articulation of these concepts in the 1970s and 80s by the Kanak independence leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, an articulation which represented a turning point for the people of New Caledonia, both Kanak and non-Kanak.