the following information was provided by the author and reproduced here with his permission. The original was first appeared as part of the Pacific Islands Year Book -- 17th Edition (1995) published by Fiji Times Ltd., 20 Gordon Street, Suva, Fiji.]
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RAPANUI - (Easter Island)
Dr. Grant McCall
Centre for South Pacific Studies
The University of New South Wales
Easter Island, a province of Chile, lies between the west coast of South America and Pitcairn Island, its nearest inhabited neighbour. It is situated in approximately 28 deg 10 min S latitude and 109 deg 30 min W longitude. Santiago, the Chilean capital, is 3790 eastward; Pitcairn is about 1600 km westward. The official Spanish name for the island is Isla de Pascua. Other languages translate it similarly so that in French it is known as Ile de Pâques, German Österinsel and so on. It is known also as Rapanui, a Polynesian name dating back to the 1860s.
Some early European explorers refered to it as Te Pito o Te Henua (The navel of the world) or Vaihu, both of which are local place names.
The island has an area of 166 sq. km and the 1992 census shows a resident population of 2,770 persons. The coastline mostly is rugged, with few sand beaches, with the interior composed of low gently rolling hills, volcanic in origin. Hangaroa, on the west coast, and adjoining Mataveri are the only settlements, although there are plans for a new town along the south coast, as the population increases. The island is administered by a governor appointed by the Chilean Government. Since 1984, the governor has been an islander. The Chilean peso is the official currency, although US dollars circulate legally. The coat of arms, national anthem, flag and most public holidays are also those of Chile. There are two exceptions. Firstly, 9 September, the day Rapanui was annexed, is celebrated as "Policarpo Toro Day", after the Chilean naval captain responsible for the arrangement. More moveable is "Tapati Rapanui" or Rapanui Week, which takes place usually at the end of January or beginning of February and is a cultural and sporting celebration of life on the island.
The 1992 census shows a resident population of 2,770, an increase of 43.1% (834) of the 1982 figure. Perhaps a third of this figure are temporary residents, being public servants and their families, who are employed in the armed forces and various public institutions. The remainder are native Rapanui and their spouses, some of whom were born on Mainland Chile, called "El Conti", or elsewhere. Several hundred Rapanui live off their island, mainly in other parts of Chile, but also in North America, Europe and notably about one hundred in Tahiti. Since the 1982 census, there has been a 100% increase in the number of houses on the island, from 530 to 1,065, due largely to Chilean government subsidised housing programmes. Spanish is the most commonly spoken language, with Rapanui, an Eastern Polynesian tongue related to Cook Islands Maori, being the mode of daily communication for most Rapanui. Owing to extensive contacts and the importance of tourism, some Rapanui and their outsider born employees speak English, some French and German.
Citizenship. Rapanui have Chilean citizenship. Most Islanders over the age of 15 years have at least visited the "Conti" and some have lived there for some time attending school and university. There is some sensitivity locally about the distinction between "Chileans" and Rapanui, those with family and background on the island and those whose roots lie elsewhere in Chile. Roman Catholicism is the prevailing religion, although apostolics and Mormons have small congregations.
Life is informal on the island and dress casual, except for those in prominent role at state occasions. Houses, clothing and public buildings are mainly in Chilean style, with the occasional floral Tahitian pattern in shirts and dresses. People shake hands upon meeting and departing, with those more familiar with one another kissing (female to female and female to male) or giving a strong hug (the "abrazo"). Food is Chilean in style, although island foods such as crayfish, tuna (and other fish), sweet potato and taro are common.
More than 400 vehicles, such as tour buses, Land Rovers and other similar models, run over the few dozen kilometres of mainly unpaved road. There are several hundred motorcycles and farm vehicles. The first sealed road runs east to west from the Church to the Fishermen's Wharf, past the school and post office. Early in 1993, there are plans to cobble stone the main north to south commercial road.
Distinctive Rapanui customs include dancing, string figure story telling and water sports. There are several Islanders who are excellent stone and wood carvers, making replicas of famous Rapanui figures. As well, there are artists working on cloth and some graphic arts, exploring Polynesian themes, but with a contemporary eye.
An Islander has been governor of the Province of Isla de Pascua (including the uninhabited island of Sala y Gomez) since 1984, the first being Mr. Sergio Rapu Haoa, an archaeologist and museum curator. In 1992, the Governor is Mr. Jacobo Hey Paoa, a former school teacher and the island's first lawyer. Governors under the Chilean system have been always appointed from the centre and aim to represent the President of the country.For administrative purposes, the Province of Isla de Pascua includes the uninhabited island of Sala y Gomez. It is in the V Region of the country, along with the port city of Valparaiso and the resort Viña del Mar. The Municipality of Hangaroa holds elections every four years to elect six counsellors, one of whom becomes the Mayor by election. At the most recent election, on 28 June 1992, the vote was so close that two counsellors will hold the position each for two years.
JusticeThe legal is the same as in Chile and is operated on an island basis. There is a Chilean judge at the court house and a civil registry department. The Carabineros, a National Police force, have about two dozen men stationed on the island who work as the airport police, do traffic patrols and generally maintain order.
Liquor and gambling. Liquor laws are the same as in Chile, with a liberal interpretation. There are penalties for drink driving. There is no formal gambling, apart from soccer pools and private card games. Customs on importing alcohol and tobacco are rarely enforced. There are adequate supplies of Chilean produced alcohol, including the excellent wines, widely available.
All branches of the four Chilean armed forces are represented on Rapanui, with the Navy having the largest staff of 35 persons, including 22 Marine Infantry stationed from 1992 as a demonstration of sovereignty. The Navy has a small patrol boat, Tokerau, intended for marine rescue. There is a small contingent of Air Force personnel, but no aircraft. There are occasional Rapanui Army draftees. The Carabineros are the most visible of the armed forces on the island.
The Liceo Lorenzo Baeza Vega, with about 800 students, now offers full child and adult education facilities. There is a Kindergarten, Pre-basic and Basic education, running nine years. Next follows "Middle Teaching" (Enseñanza Media) for four years. From two years ago, the Liceo administers the national examination ("Prueba de Aptitude") which serves, amongst other things, for entry to post-secondary institutions, including university.
There are no absolute scores on the "Prueba", but each course of study at each of Chile's universities has its own cut off point for entry. All students are expected to attend basic education, with some few going on to higher studies.
There are government scholarships for Rapanui students for higher education on "the Conti" and university study.
The size of the available workforce is small, with all persons over the age of 30 years having some sort of productive activity. Given that each Islander has a plot of land, there is a certain amount of subsistence affluence, with many fishing for additional protein. The most constant sources of employment are through the Chilean public service and tourism. Some work in both areas. Public projects of various sorts come up and the entire work force may be absorbed. There are problems of unemployment for the most part. Domestic service and working in shops is done often by persons brought from Chile for the purpose.
Wages. Rates of pay in public employment, the most constant source, are fixed officially in Chile. In 1992, a worker in a government job might expect 60,000 pesos per month (about $A240), while someone employed privately, say in construction or tourism might ask for 140,000 pesos (about $A560). Local labour typically will balance income against cost of living, which is not less than 50% higher on the island than in Santiago. That, coupled with occasional labour shortages and the availability of adequate subsistence through gardens and fishing, means that the cost of labour is highly variable.
The standard of health on Rapanui is higher than in the rest of Chile, with no infectious diseases of South America (eg cholera) nor of the tropics (eg malaria, dengue). Some time ago, there was a well controlled problem of leprosy and there are some older, disfigured reminders of that previous condition. As with many Pacific populations, there are the diseases of progress such as diabetes, hypertension and cardio-vascular complaints.
Anectdotally, people report a high incidence of cancer amongst the dozen or so deaths per annum. To care for this population, there is a small hospital inland from the church at Hangaroa village, erected in 1976, with one medical doctor, a dentist, a midwife and nursing and auxiliary staff. Equipment and medicines are variable. There is an ambulance. Travellers should take with them any specialist medical requirements as there is no chemist on the island, apart from the hospital dispensary whose supplies depend upon shipments from Chile.
Rapanui is triangular in shape, with its longest stretch being along the south coast of 22km and its widest point being 11km. At each corner of the island, there is an extinct volcano, the highest of these being Maunga Terevaka at 506m in the NW. Its crater is known as Rano Aroi. Geologically, the island started at Poike peninsular, about 5 million years, with the other major cones following. This vulcanism means that the island has no high centre, but consists of around 80 cones of various sizes, with very rocky plains. There are numerous volcanic tubes, forming an extensive system of caves, mostly unexplored in modern times. The coastline is mainly rocky, with high, black cliffs and only a few white sand beaches, the main one being Anakena, on the side of the island opposite Hangaroa village. Anakena is a much appreciated tourist and picnic spot and also is the site, according to tradition, of the landing of the mythical founder of Rapanui, Hotu Matu`a, or "Great Parent". There is no evidence that there has been volcanic activity during human habitation. Along with Rano Aroi, there are two other "Ranos" featuring fresh water lakes in their calderas. Rano Kau is behind Hangaroa village on the southwest corner, while Rano Raraku rises from a plane in front of Poike. Rano Raraku was the main quarry on whose south side virtually all the ancient moai, or commemorative busts, were carved.
Due to its southern location, Rapanui is sub-tropical and oceanic, with trade winds blowing from the east and SE during most of the year. In the austral winter, temperatures can feel quite chilly, especially when combined with wind and rain during the months of July and August. The yearly mean temperature is 22[[ordmasculine]] C, with a variation between 18[[ordmasculine]] (August) and 25[[ordmasculine]]C (January). There appear to be cycles in modern times of drought and storm, with precipitation varying by as much as 1000mm (ie 500mm to 1500mm). The sun feels strong, again with wind, and visitors should wear strong sun protection and hats.
From the late 19th century, the island was turned over to sheep ranching, with around 60,000 head being the average herd. Over two dozen varieties of eucalyptus and other trees were imported from Australia, along with grazing grasses. Since these plantations requiring firing to reproduce adequately, native flora has suffered and largely disappeared. The unique Toromiro exists only in a Swedish botanical garden, with repeated attempts at re-introduction failing. Even inside the relatively protected calderas, native flora struggles for survival. Of the over 200 species found on the island presently, three quarters are human introductions. Sea-birds, a small number of insects and a native lizard are the survivors of the past; the native rat was replaced long ago by the imported European one. Most animals, cats, dogs, horses, cattle, pigs and poultry, are recent importations, as are the numerous cockroaches.
From an Islander point of view, there are three principal villages. Mataveri is the name of the island's airport and the area between that and Rano Kau. For much of the colonial history, Mataveri was the headquarters of the company in charge of the island's commercial exploitation. Today, it is where the Carabineros have their headquarters and it is entirely the place where government housing for various public services is found. Moeroa village runs roughly from the north side of the airport to nearly the government office centre, which is located, along with the municipality, school and church, at Hangaroa. Within those broad areas, there are prominent place names such as Apina, Tahai and so on that identify where people live. There is a growing system of roads in the municipality, each with names, but people rarely use them. Some few people live outside the main settlement area near their plantations.
Spatial orientation is important to Rapanui and instead of greeting with an inquiry about health ("Pehe koe?"), it is common for people to ask from where one is coming ("Maihe koe?") and to where one is going ("Kihe koe?"). People do not regard such questions as being intrusive.
Traditional plantations of taro, sweet potato, sugar cane, yams, bananas and gourds continue to be cultivated, along with more recent crop introductions such as tomatoes, onions, maize, grapes, figs, melons, beans, pineapples and various fruit trees. Individual gardens demonstrate even greater variety since Rapanui frequently flaunt strict Chilean agricultural controls and bring cuttings back for experimentation, either for production or ornamentation. Recent research suggests that prior to human habitation, the island was heavily forested, notably by a relative of the Chilean gigantic palm (Jubaea chilensis). Whilst there is nothing in the Rapanui tradition, it is notable that this palm provides an edible fruit and sugary fermentable sap.
In general, there is a decline in flora and fauna as one moves from the large, rich Melanesian islands, to the smaller and more remote Polynesian ones. Rapanui is the extreme of this rule. In ancient times, livestock consisted of the Polynesian chicken and rat (Kio`e), there being no evidence of either pigs or dogs. Modern pigs are called `oru ("fat"), whilst cats have taken the usual name for dog as "kuri". Dogs are known by the unique term "Paehenga". Sheep, horses, cattle, pigeons, quail, hawks and ducks have been introduced since European settlement. Jean Baptiste Onésime Dutrou-Bornier, in partnership with John Brander, businessman, and Catholic Bishop Tepano Jaussen, brought 435 head of merino sheep from Sydney, along with construction materials and
armaments, in 1872, which provided the island with its only significant export, an annual wool clip. The ranch at Vaitea, in the centre of the island, features an Australian inspired architecture.
Livestock. The sheep population reached over 60,000 head, consisting mainly of corriedales and Australian merinos and the entire island, bar the small settlement of Hangaroa, was turned over to ranching for much of ist colonial history. At the annual shearing, each clip was about 2.8 kg and all wool was classified on the island and sent to Chile. This operation commenced its decline in the 1950s, culminating in the end of the sheep era in November 1985, with the last slaughter.
In the 1970s, with the end of the sheep ranching in view, a herd of about 400 head of cattle was imported from Punta Arenas, Chile, to provide local meat for local consumption. Horses were introduced by the sheep ranching operation in the last century and people, especially those who cannot afford motor vehicles, use them for transportation. The local herd reach several thousand in the 1970s, was reduced when used to feed the population and now, once more, is on the rise.
Excellent tuna is caught by local fishermen for local consumption, along with the much appreciated (by outsiders) crayfish. There are other local varieties of fish worth tasting. Islanders enjoy raw sea urchins and a few other shoreline delicacies. The "nanue" is a strong smelling, fatty local fish much appreciated by Rapanui.
Export industries in the past have included horse meat, pineapples and, even, crayfish, but these are not constant, due to the high cost of air freight and its unreliability. A recent initiative is an attempt to produce small quantities
of preserves, a current brand name being "Tuku Turi", after the unique kneeling moai on the slopes of Rano Raraku.
Most industry is on an individual basis, producing good quality copies of the famous artefacts. If given time, skilled Rapanui carvers can reproduce from photographs and drawings any of the beautiful art works of their ancestors, now held in museums around the world. Carvings are in island soft volcanic stone and local timber, "miro tahiti" being the favoured, although others are used. There are also miniature replicas of the large commemorative figures, moai, for which the island is best known. As well as traditional designs, there are imaginative carvings based on local themes and genuine creative artists working in oils and other media. There is small manufacture of textile printing, T-shirts and cloth wrap arounds, and other products, intended mainly for visitors, but used also by locals. Services, such as vehicle and electronic repairs, are available, along with shoe repairs. As the community is small, manufactures come and go with individual interest. There is often a film
developing (black and white and, sometimes, colour) service.
Most people pin their hopes on tourism for the island's development. Until the 1960s, the only way to Rapanui was by ship, either the annual supply one or on cruises. With the coming of an American Air Force Base in 1966, the Mataveri airport facilities were enlarged, resulting in limited charter services in modified DC-6B aircraft. 1970 saw the airport improved and the commencement of scheduled weekly 707 flights. Again, a USA financed initiative in 1986, to prepare Mataveri as an emergency landing site for the space shuttle, resulted in a further enlargement of Mataveri so that larger aircraft can safely land there now. The Concorde made its first flight in the late 1980s. Tourism averages 6,800 visitors annually, mainly from South America. Persons taking the LanChile flight between Papeete and Santiago can take advantage of the one hour stop over to make a quick tour of nearby
archaeological sites. Servicing this population are 7 hotels and 36 residenciales, the latter ranging from a room or two in a private home to multi-room annexes. Prices for accommodation vary greatly according to quality and many of these operators meet the plane and can make arrangements on the spot. Several of the larger establishments have international connections and bookings can be made through airlines and travel agents.
There are two flights weekly between Santiago and Papeete, with the stop over on Rapanui. During the summer months, December to early February, there is often a third flight between Santiago and Rapanui only, to cater for the extra demand. Some few cruise ships continue to call at the island on an irregular basis.
There are some 85 licenses to operates businesses that have been granted by the municipality. Supermarkets, or "mixed businesses", predominate, selling a variety of Chilean groceries, with imported fresh fruit and vegetables.
As well, limited clothing items, cosmetics, an ice cream shop, even video hire and supplies, are available. Services such as hair dressing, sewing and several snack bars and restaurants are available. There is a small hardware store and specialist shops of various sorts depending upon the interest of islander owners. Fresh bread is available from 2-3 bakeries, along with other similar products. Souvenirs, both local manufacture and imported, such as cassettes and books, are available from several shops. There is a branch of "EMAZA", a government supported shop intended to bring cheap food to remote places and in front of that people sell locally grown fruits and vegetables. On the square near the church is a large gallery, with individual stalls featuring local handicrafts.
Most of the commerce is to be found on the road between the church to the fishing wharf ("Te Pito o te Henua") and the main road running from the school and municipality to the airport ("Policarpo Toro"). Fresh meat is sold at a government run butcher shop at the small port of Hanga Piko. Prices are quite high, especially when compared with the rest of Chile, since goods are bought often retail in Santiago, imported air freight and sold in small quantities. Prices can increase for a variety of reasons, including the exchange rate between the Chilean peso and the USA dollar. To take an example, at the beginning of 1992, 1 kilo of bread baked on the island cost 480 pesos ($A1.92); by November of that same year, it was selling at 600 pesos ($A2.40). There is one petrol station on the island, located near the airport, and prices are cheaper than in Chile, as there are no local taxes.
All local commerce, including hotel and tourism operations are in Rapanui hands. All local businesses require a local partner since all land either is owned by the state (SASIPA and National Park) or registered in Rapanui names. Whilst outsiders may be shop assistants, even managers, those who control the businesses are Rapanui.
The definition of a "Rapanui" for the purposes of holding land title is that at least one parent was born on Rapanui or descended from someone so born. There are land "sales" between Rapanui, although these officially are registered as transfers, the settlement being a matter between the Rapanui in the deal. No non-Rapanui can purchase land and leasing is very difficult.
Chile pays dearly for its Easter Island province, paying more in wages for local services and projects on a per capita basis than any other part of the country. As there are no taxes, the island sends back little to the mainland. There is only one bank on the island, the government Banco del Estado, and they deal only in pesos and USA dollars. There are limited credit card facilities, such as American Express, VISA and MasterCharge, available at some shops and hotels. There are no cash advance facilities on these cards available, except by exceptional and individual arrangements with merchants.
There are several hundred motor vehicles on the island, mainly owned by individuals and several by state institutions. Most favoured are four wheel drive trucks and vans, with some buses for tourist transport. Horses, small four wheel drive vehicles (with and without driver) and motorbikes may be hired from businesses and individuals. Visits to most of the archaeological sites, except for the local museum and the Tahai complex, must be made by vehicle, although people do walk. There is an especially worthwhile walk from Hangaroa through Hanga o Teo on the north coast to Anakena which is recommended. As there are no roads, this must be done either on foot or horseback. The road from the church to the small fishing wharf has been paved with cobble stones and early in 1993 it is intended that the main road from the school to the airport will be similarly sealed.
As most of the roads become very dusty, the prudent pedestrian will observe the direction of the dust and move to the opposite side of the road as required. In town, there is a 20km/hr speed limit. Outside town, due to the poor condition of the roads, it is rare to exceed 50km/hr without considerable danger. The roads to the main sites are well marked, although a guide is recommended for those wishing to find out more about the place.
Some cruise ships and small yachts do anchor around Rapanui at various times of the year and there are formal port and customs clearance requirements, at Hangaroa, that must be observed. Hanga Piko is the only enclosed harbour for small boats, although there are docks and storage huts for local fishermen to use at Aka Hanga, Hanga o Hoonu ("La Pérouse") and Anakena. There is a small tie up facility for local fishermen at Hangaroa. The petrol tanker unloads its cargo into the large storage tanks located at Vaihu. Hanga Piko does have three 16m landing craft for unloading the supply ship, small cranes, warehouses and electric light.
LanChile is the Chilean national airline and is the only one permitted to land at Mataveri. Lan uses mainly DC 767, but occasionally the old 707 is called into service. The flights are between Santiago and Papeete, the most popular sector being the Rapanui-Santiago segment, which often is heavily booked. Due to traffic in South Americans now resident in Australia, the entire flight may be booked, so re-confirmation and early arrival at the airport is recommended to secure ones seat. Flying time from Santiago is about 5 hours, from Papeete only 4, although these times vary by as much as an hour depending upon prevailing winds and the direction of the flight.
The standard of the landing equipment at Mataveri is amongst the best in the Pacific and Mataveri has had a good passenger terminal since 1982. The passenger terminal has a small bar, both for transit and those embarking and limited souvenir shops.
Considering the remoteness of Rapanui, communications are excellent. ENTEL, the Chilean national company, maintains an installation of 400 telephones, fully automatic, most in private homes. Since June 1992, the service is now fully automatic from the island to anywhere in the world. This means that all telephone numbers on Rapanui have had to add the prefix 223, before the actual number. To call Rapanui, one must go through the operator in Santiago. In 1992, a monthly charge of 4,000 pesos ($A16.) is made, including all local calls. Calls to Chile and overseas are charged at Chilean rates. There is daily radio contact with Chile maintained by
government radio and telex. Since the early 1970s, volunteers from the Chilean Air Force base have kept "Radio Manukena" in operation. Most recently, in addition to AM sending, it can be found at 101.8 FM. In 1992, as part of its increased presence on the island, the Chilean Navy commenced stereo broadcasts at 98.5FM. Short wave reception is excellent and many listen to AM broadcasts from the USA in the evenings. Television programmes are sent by video tape on the Lan flights and these run from 1800 to 2400 hours, with some variations for special events. There are local news and information programmes from time to time, made usually on a volunteer basis.
Video and television equipment is in many households and, through kin relations, all have access to these media. Chilean periodicals, mainly newspapers and some magazines, arrive on the airplanes. There are some amateur radio operators amongst the residents and short term residents.
WATER AND ELECTRICITY
Water is administered by SASIPA, a semi-government company, who also look after the electricity and the agricultural development on the island. Water is reticulated from wells in the Hangaroa area and is treated to be safe to drink. Electricity, also widely available, but expensive by world standards, is provided by diesel generators to 220v Chilean standard, using a 2-pin round plug. The USA constructed Hotel Hangaroa maintains its American standard 110v 2-pin flat plug.
In accordance with Chilean custom, people on Rapanui normally use both the father's patrinym and that of the mother, so a person born of Paul Smith and Mary Jones has the surname John Smith Jones. Women do not change their surnames on marriage but may add after their own surnames "de" and then the father's patrinym. Mary Jones might choose call her Mary Jones de Smith. The Rapanui names are rendered with their proper spelling, which may not be the same as their official one.
Radio carbon dates suggest that Rapanui was settled sometime before the 4th century AD, probably from elsewhere in Eastern Polynesia, most probably the Marquesas. These voyagers, led by the intrepid culture hero, Hotu Matu`a, either fled warfare or a flooded island to land at the white sand beach of Anakena, and from there to divide up the land amongst his sons. Commencing with low ahu, temple complexes, these evolved over the early centuries to large structures, several metres in length and constructed, in small places, with carefully fitted stone facades, which some have sought to compare with the heavier Inca walls some thousands of kilometres distant. In the development of the ancient culture, there seems to have been a take off point sometime in the 7th or 8th centuries, with increased population (the coastal zone was settled by then) and an elaboration of the common Eastern Polynesian temple and commemorative patterns. We do not have any evidence as yet of "back
rests" or slightly carved sacred stones of ancestors, but there are small figures, made of local materials that people began to erect.
One theory, put forward by archaeologist Sergio Rapu, is that the sweet potato, an important food plant of definite South American origin arrived on the island and became the fuel to drive the remarkable cultural development. This sweet potato culture, with its abundant and nutritious food, was able to produce one of the most remarkable cultures known to humans. The ahu grew in size to the gigantic one at Tongariki, being restored by University of Chile archaeologists Claudio Cristino and Patricia Vargas in 1992-3, which contained 13 moai. These commemorative figures, so heavily stylised were carved from volcanic tuft mainly at the main quarry of Rano Raraku, where one can follow easily the various stages of production. Most moai, intended to represent once known ancestors, are from 3.5m to 6m in height, but there are larger ones up to 10m. Further elaboration brought people to carve additional red scoria top knots, representing ceremonial mud dressed hair.
Something around 1,000 moai, some still buried in ahu and under eroded soil, were produced, with the last ones having radio carbon dates of around 1350AD. At around that time, now corroborated by John Flenley's work on ancient pollens, the moai building ceased, ahus fell into disrepair and Islanders began destructive battles in what seems to have been a time of famine, perhaps provoked by the "Little Ice Age" whose impact on Europe at that time is well documented.
The sacred site shifted from moai building to an annual "bird man ceremony" at the ceremonial village of Orongo, high on the cliffs of Rano Kau, overlooking the sea. There at an annual end of winter gathering, brave warriors plunged into the sea to retrieve the first laid egg of the sooty tern from some offshore islets. During this time, there were other events, such as the reading of the still undeciphered rongo-rongo boards at Anakena Beach. Ever inventive, the Rapanui tried to ameliorate war through elaborate ritual. The moai building complex was a time of peace, but the Orongo period from roughly the 14th century until European contact and settlement from the 18th century onwards, was one of constant battle, with destruction and canibalism. The last sighting of a standing moai on a platform was by a French naval vessel in 1832.
One of the stories that the tourist will hear perpetually about Rapanui is that the crucial battle that ended the culture was an epic confrontation between Hanau Eepe (Long Ears) and Hanau Momoko (Short Ears). This derives from a 19th century mistranslation of the crucial terms, first explained by Father Sebastian Englert over half a century ago, but ignored by those who wish to use this sort for their own purposes. Only one of these words could be confused with "ear", which is epe in Rapanui. In reality, the terms refer to the "short, corpulent people" (Hanau Eepe) and the "tall, thin people" (Hanau momoko). Perhaps its time that the mistranslation is finally put to rest?
European arrive. Some accounts give the Spanish credit for bumping into Rapanui and there is the residue that the English Pirate, Davis, might have made a 17th century call, but the first confirmed European landing is on Easter Day in 1722 by the Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen, and his three ships, who named it accordingly.
Observations were made of Rapanui who came to the ship and there was one shore party, with 125 armed marines, who became jittery at the islander excitement and opened fire, killing an unknown number of welcoming hosts. A wild account of the time there and other adventures was published by a member of the crew, Fredrich Behrens, thus commencing the tradition of strange tales that have come such a part of the literature on the island.
Spain, rather late to get to known its "Spanish Lake" sent an expedition to Rapanui in 1770 under the command of Felipe Gonzalez y Haedo who in an elaborate ceremony, complete with flags and cannon, took possession of St. Charles Island (named for his king), generally leaving a good impression with the Rapanui. The Spanish initiative failed and the question of a claim there never taken up, but excellent maps were produced.
Four years later, on his second voyage, James Cook came up from his imposed, fruitless search for the Great South Land around Antarctica and glumly pronounced Rapanui worthless, through his sickly eyes; the great explorer did some maps of his usual high standard, but did not go ashore with his landing party, which consisted of the Tahitian Mahina, who promptly disappeared with the Rapanui, with whom he probably could converse.
The Cook visit provides valuable ethnological information as does the subsequent one by La Pérouse two years later. A map from the La Pérouse visit shows the layout of the Hangaroa area to be remarkably like the road system found today.
About one hundred ships called at the island between the Spanish visit and 1862, with several stops by whalers in the 1820s and 1830s. In 1806, Captain Benjamin Page took a young Rapanui with him to London, where he was baptised "Henry Easter" at Rotherhithe in 1812. Mostly relations were good, with Rapanui trading their art work and food for European products, usually nails, cloth and the like, although haircuts enjoyed a vogue for a while!
Peruvian slavers. Labour shortages in Peru and a British ban on the importation of Chinese labour conspired with an Irish "migration consultant" to produce the disastrous blackbird raids on Rapanui, and elsewhere, as told by H. E. Maude, in his book Slavers in paradise, Stanford University Press, 1981. The island's population stood at about 3,500 persons in 1862, when the raids commenced in December of that year. There were subsequent attacks and over 1,000 were carried off to work on plantations and, even, as servants in private homes. French diplomatic pressure, and Peruvian realisation of what they had permitted their citizens and others to do, put an end to the raids in early 1863, but not before damage had been done. Tuberculosis and, from April, 1863, small pox began to take its terrible toll on the Rapanui and other islanders and hundreds died. There is no evidence that there were any survivors and only about a dozen returned to their home, bringing disease with them.
Missionaries. Through these events and owing to a report from a warship that had stopped at Rapanui just before the raids, a Lay Brother, Eugene Eyraud, who, though of French birth, had been a mechanic in Bolivia, persuaded the Sacred Hearts Mission in Valparaiso to let him lead a mission to Rapanui, which he did after stopping in Papeete, to return with a couple of Rapanui who had been stranded there during the raids. Eyraud, alone, endured nine months before being rescued. He returned with three more in a team that included the easy going Father Gaspar Zumbohm (German) and the emotional Father Hypolite Roussel (French). Eyraud died in 1868, of tuberculosis, but the others, joined by another Lay Brother, Theodule Escolan, continued their work, which included the burning of idols. A Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Onésime Dutrou-Bornier, who subsequently styled himself as "King" of Rapanui, turned up in partnership with Catholic Bishop Tepano Jaussen and businessman, John Brander. There is a falling out between Bornier and Roussel, with the latter leaving in 1871, taking a contingent to Mangareva. Bornier supervises more shipments of labour to the plantations owned by the Catholic Church and Brander. Most of these emigrants died. In 1876, Bornier is murdered by the islanders, who could take no more of his brutality and when Alphonse Pinart appears over the horizon in 1877, he is told by a Chilean
foreman that there are 110 persons on the island with him.
Chilean interest. Chilean ships had called at Rapanui from as early as the 1830s, but serious contacts began in 1870. Flushed with pride at winning their "War of the Pacific" with Peru and Bolivia, Chilean patriots urge the acquisition of a colonial possession to validate their claims to nationhood. On 9 September 1888, Capitan Policarpo Toro Hurtado signs a deed of Cesion and another of Annexation with the chiefs of the island. The treaty is in both Spanish and a kind of Rapanui. In the latter, Chile offers to be a "friend of the land", whilst in the former the island becomes part of the Chilean state. Brander was to be compensated for his property, but full payment never took place. Policarpo Toro's brother, Pedro Pablo, ran a sheep ranch operation until 1892, when their ship (and fortunes) sank. Eventually, the Toro brothers sold their interests to one Enrique Merlet, who took a strong lead which eventually led to the killing of the last king of the island by poison, and the murder deportation of any opposition. It was at this time that the islanders were forceably herded into Hangaroa, when they remained as prisoners on their own island until 1966.
In time, a Chilean company, called appropriately Compania Explotadora de la Isla de Pascua, took over the interests which mainly were owned by the English-Scottish company, Williamson, Balfour, who prosper still on the Chilean mainland. Discounting a charge of dynamite placed in the centre of the superb Vinapu finely fitted ahu by Paymaster William Thompson in 1886, the first archaeology was carried out by Mrs. Scoresby Routledge, who remained on the island for 18 months in 1914-1915, during which time the German Pacific Squadron turned up to take on supplies! In 1934-5, a Franco-Belgian expedition spent about half a year taking down the most complete ethnological record to date. The Belgian, Henri Lavacherry, published his studies in French, but the Frenchman Alfred Métraux, published in both English and French, both popular and scientific accounts of his research. Father Sebastian Englert, a Capuchin missionary, arrived in 1935, mission Metraux, and remained the resident researcher and priest until his death, in Florida, in 1969, on his way back to Rapanui after an exhibition of Rapanui work. In 1955-6, Thor Heyerdahl led the Norwegian Expedition to Easter Island, resulting in several publications, including his still popular novelistic account, Aku Aku, available in many editions and languages. The Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island in 1964-5 was the last large scale research team to descend on the place.
Recent history. After an unexpected "revolt", really a cargo cult in 1914, the Chilean government began to send regular governors to represent Chilean interests on the island, to affirm sovereignty. After the first, all were naval officers, either active or retired. Increasingly, rule became more restrictive. In 1953, the contract for Williamson, Balfour was terminated and the Chilean Navy took over the entire running of the island. Throughout this century, Chilean authorities forbade islanders to leave the Hangaroa area, a fence being put around the settlement and written permission required to visit the rest of the island. After the escape of some Chilean political prisoners in the 1930s, Islanders movement off the island was severely controlled. This sparked about fifty islanders over the years to take to sea in small fishing boats, Boston whalers, about half of them dying in the attempt. After the
Heyerdahl, there was some relaxation and in 1956 the first continent of school children was allowed to go to Chile to study, along with some guardians. Amongst this first group was Alfonso Rapu Haoa, who returned to his home in 1964 as a school teacher. As one of the first educated Rapanui, he resented the autocratic Naval rule and, due to his election as Mayor, the authorities called troops to the island. Eventually, the troops withdrew and the island became a fully incorporated part of Chile, the restrictions were removed and free elections held from 1966, even a special "Easter Island Law (16442)" was enacted, giving a series of benefits to spur development. This coincided with the coming of a US Air Force base to the island which caused considerable social change in a very few years, including birth of a few dozen half-American children, none of whom have been acknowledged either by their fathers or the American authorities. The election of Salvador Allende Gossens in 1970 prompted the Americans to depart hastily; the bloody Chilean coup of 1973 ended freedom on Rapanui and elsewhere in that unhappy country.
Rapanui under the military dictatorship flourished and Army strongman, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte visited the place three times, along with several of his ministers. Extensive public works were carried out, subsidised government housing and public buildings erected. The first Rapanui to be governor was appointed in 1984. The year before, an Elders Committee had been formed around Alberto Hotu Chavez who organised a letter, with the consent of virtually all the Islanders, to petition the United Nations Committee on Decolonisation for assistance in securing a referendum on independence on Easter Island. Mr. Hotu continued his agitation and community action throughout the 1980s as one of the few voices of protest during the long period of military rule in Chile. In 1992, Mr. Hotu was elected Mayor of the Municipality.
The most recent event on the island is the filming of a Hollywood style production using Rapanui themes, organised by actor Kevin Costner, with some local actors and an Australian technical crew. The making of the film is expected to occupy the first half of 1993, with a release date yet to be determined.
Air Links. In 1950, the idea of a trans-Pacific link, using Rapanui as a stopping off place, began to be floated and a rough 600m airstrip was built at Mataveri, in the SW of the island. Chilean Air Force pilot Roberto Parrague Singer took the first Catalina amphibian aircraft to Rapanui in 1951, but encountered difficulties in taking off with the necessary fuel for the return journey. Shortly afterwards, an Australian airman, (now Sir) Gordon Taylor called at Rapanui on a west-to-east survey flight. It was a decade before further significant developments took place, with the Tahiti-Rapanui-Santiago link established, mainly by Parrague, in the 1960s. People on the island know that "Manutara", as some call Parrague, occasionally pilots the LanChile aircraft that come to the island.
There are hundreds of titles about Rapanui in all major European languages, the majority partaking of the fanciful "mysteries" that are alleged to dwell there, from hidden antennae to flying saucers and space visitors.
Much of this can be ignored, except for those of specialist tastes. The most recent guidebook dedicated to the island is by Dr. Georgia Lee, An uncommon guide , published in 1990. Dr. Lee publishes also a very informative Rapa Nui , with the latest news from the island. With Alan Drake, Dr. Lee has published also Easter Island.
The ceremonial centre of Orongo in 1992. The Easter Island Foundation publishes other specialist studies, the profits from benefit research projects. Information on these and other publications may be obtained by writing to the Easter Island Foundation, 190 El Cerrito Plaza, Suite 171, El Cerrito CA 94530 USA. Paul Bahn and John Flenley call their excellent and well-illustrated study, Easter Island. Earth Island, with their sub-title, A message from our past for the future of our planet (London, Thames & Hodder, 1992). They assemble the most recent research on Rapanui to argue that the environmental degradation that Rapanui suffered is a homily for what human beings are doing to planet Earth as a whole. Jo Anne Van Tilburg's HMS Topaze on Easter Island (British Museum Occasional Paper 73, London, Department of Ethnography, 1992) seems very specialist, but it
contains a full survey of the rock art of Rapanui and what has happened to the commemorative moai for which the island is so well known. Studies of the contemporary island are out of print, but available in libraries. Helen Reid's A world away, Toronto 1965, tells the story of the Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island, including the revolt that transformed the place into a fully integrated civil territory of Chile. Grant McCall's Rapanui, Sydney, Allen & Unwin & Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1980, gives a full account of the contemporary island, while Douglas Porteous's The modernisation of Easter Island, Victoria BC, University of Victoria, focuses on the development of the sheep ranch. A basic text on the ancient Rapanui culture is The Ethnology of Easter Island, originally published in 1940, but reprinted by the Bishop Museum Press in 1971.
Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, now resident in Peru, pursuing his American Indian origins theory for Polynesian high culture, headed an archaeological expedition to the island in 1955-1956. Three principal publications resulted, all heavily illustrated. The first, edited by Heyerdahl and Edwin Ferdon, jr.The archaeology of Easter Island, was published in 1961 by Allen & Unwin, London, with the second volume appearing in 1965. Thor Heyerdahl's 1976 The art of Easter Island, London, Allen & Unwin, is really the third volume, but is single authored. For over thirty years, Father Sebastian Englert worked as the parish priest on Rapanui, at the same time carrying out
ethnological and linguistic research. His work in Spanish, La tierra de Hotu Matu`a, is now in its fifth printing by the University of Chile by 1992. There is a translation to English of some radio talks he gave, which was published in 1970 as Island at the center of the world, New York, Charles Scribners. Finally, there was a very complete exhibition organised by Dr. Heide Essen-Bauer which was put on in Germany and Belgium in the late 1980s. The well illustrated catalogues were published as 1500 Jahre Kultur der Osterinsel, 1989, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, and L'Ile de Pâques: une Enigme? Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels.
FOR THE TOURIST
There are excellent tours available on Rapanui, with knowledgeable guides fluent in English, Spanish, French and German. These can be arranged before arrival as part of a package or through where ever one is staying on the spot. The itinerary for a visitor has not changed since Cook's landing party was taken over the terrain two centuries ago. Cultural tourism is definitely Rapanui's main value, since its resort facilities are limited. Tours range from a half day run around local (to Hangaroa) sites to full week excursions, including walking tours.
There is also good fishing, SCUBA exploration, caving, horseback riding and extensive hiking available. Visitors can cover the basics in three days, but they will be moving quickly. In addition to the sights available in most guide books, but most particularly the excellent one by Georgia Lee mentioned above, ask the Police Chief to see the site of Dutrou-Bornier's tomb, which is in back of the Carabineros compound. Australian visitors in particular will want to explore the old shearing shed at the abandoned Vaitea to their outback transported to the middle of the Pacific. Standing in front of the Church, to the right, is a refurbished community hall, once the original mission station and featured at that location and shape on a Chilean map of 1870. Proceeding down the hill from the Church and past the post office, on the left hand side and just before the gymnasium, is the old cemetery, where the pre-1900 colonial population was buried. There is a plan to restore the site, highlighting the graves of persons famous in Rapanui recent history. In front of the telephone exchange is a small castle-like structure, designed and built by Pedro Atan, carrying a date of "MCMXLIX" (1949). It is the longest standing Rapanui designed and built public building on the island. Nearby, on the shore side, a community cultural centre is in construction in 1992, where cultural performances are to take place. The Provincial Museum, outside the main town, at Tahai, has good displays to orient the tourist.
Prospective visitors should take a jumper and rain gear at almost any time of the year and strong shoes to cope with the sharp volcanic debris.
Collecting genuine artefacts is frowned upon and such exports will be confiscated. Luggage is inspected upon departure to enforce this ruling.
Entry formalities. For most visitors wishing to stay no more than three months, all that is required is a valid passport and a visa is granted on arrival. Entry requirements are the same for Easter Island as for Chile and local consular posts should be consulted for details.
Airport tax. There is an airport tax, payable in either Chilean or USA currency which is subject to variation. Visitors should check on arrival.
Sightseeing. The restored Tahai complex near Hangaroa is a common place to visit, including Ko te Riku, which is the moai in the centre of the complex with a red top knot. The ashes of Dr. William Mulloy, who carried out many of the archaeological restorations on the island, and died in 1978, are in a small monument to the south of the complex, and overlooking it. Anakena beach has the fully restored Ahu Nau-nau, with its row of figures.
During the restoration of these figures in 1978, archaeologist Sergio Rapu Haoa discovered that the figures there and elsewhere actually had inlaid eyes, thus changing the look of Rapanui moai forever. Closer to the coast at Anakena is the roughly restored ahu done by Thor Heyerdahl, during his visit.
Further out from Hangaroa is the first restored ahu, Ahu Akivi, the only complex substantially inland, the rest being on the coast. Nearby Puna Pau is the quarry for the red scoria top knots. Taking the road along the south coast, one goes by a number of toppled monuments, some of which are identified. If one turns off the road to the fishermen's landing at Vaihu, there are a couple of large round stones just on the left. These are all that remains of the second mission station. Moving further along the coastal road, on the right hand side, is an erect moai, which remained there after it had been shipped to Japan and back in the early 1980s. Rano Raraku is the quarry for most of the moai and is worth several hours of patient exploration, both inside and out. Climbing to the top, one can appreciate how the moai, once finished, could be lowered. Also visible is the ancient road along which the moai were transport, some of them still there, where they fell. In back of the village, on the seaward edge of Rano Kau, is the restored ceremonial village of Orongo, with its tiny houses and elaborate rock carvings. At the end of the runway, near the huge fuel tanks at Vinapu, is one of the most perfectly fitted ahu walls and a peculiar pillar moai, now almost worn away.
Visitors should try also to attend a cultural performance which typically involves the singing of both traditional and modern music. Some of the "dances" are small plays about cultural events and these prove very popular with Rapanui as well as other Islanders where they have been seen at Pacific Arts Festivals since they first participated in 1972. There are cassettes available of traditional and modern Rapanui music and some Compact Disks are beginning to be produced.
Telephone: (61-2) 385-2408
FAX: (61-2) 313-7859
Centre for South Pacific Studies
The University of New South Wales
Sydney NSW 2052 ** Australia
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