BACKGROUND

2010/08/23
By

BACKGROUND

Rapa Nui, a.k.a. Easter Island, is the most  remote place on the planet where civilization has flourished.  For nearly 2000 years the Rapanui people have been master engineers, artists,  and survivalists.   Yet today they are on the brink of extinction at the hands of Chilean armed forces.

Much of the world doesn’t know that Rapanui people even exist; they erroneously believe Easter Island is deserted, and  the islanders destroyed their environment in order to move the monolithic  stone Moai.    The truth is climate change caused a dramatic decline in foliage during the 14th century.  The final blow was at the hands of the Chileans, who leased the island and its people to sheep farmers.  Half a million head of sheep ate the roots of the indigenous plants, eroding the topsoil, and inhibiting future growth.

In 1888, the Chilean navy claimed Rapanui through an alleged “treaty” written on a divided page.  One side is in Spanish and the other is in transliterated Rapanui.   Unknown by the Rapanui each side has a completely different meanings and intent.   The Rapanui version establishes a relationship of friendship,   whereas, the Chilean version states  total cession of Rapanui to Chile .  It is simply inconceivable that the Rapanui would ever willingly relinquish  their island would turn to any foreign power, as their nearest neighbor is 3,800 miles away and they had no where else do go.

After years of abuse by the sheep herding company, in 1966, Chile created “Easter Island Law” codifying that only Rapanui can purchase land on the island, and only restricted leasing was permitted to non-Rapanui.,

The Chilean government occupied lands in the capital town, Hangaroa, which they used for the Governor’s office, land office, airport, police compound, national telephone, etc.   To encourage tourism Chile established government-run hotels as part of HONSA (Hoteles Nacionales Sociedad Anonima or National Hotels Inc).  The Hito family understood their property was to be leased to the Hotel for a finite period to help grow the economy.

In 1973 a coup ushered in Pinochet’s dictatorship.   HONSA was sold to a cohort of Pinochet, a non-Rapanui.  The Hotel has been resold twice since that time – both times to non-Rapanui private entities.

After two generations of mistreatment  and human rights violations at the hands of  the Chilean government,  the Rapanui have reclaimed their grandparents lands and are demanding title of the lands and decolonization of the island.

The Rapanui have survived  untold hardships, multiple attempts at genocide;  enslavement;  destruction of  their ancestral infrastructure and agricultural sustainability; use of banned asbestos in subsidized housing, use of  banned pesticides;  and today,  substandard health care, as well as  unchecked immigration of people, plants and animals to the island.

Many Chilean individuals have great affection for Rapanui, yet the Chilean/Rapanui dialog is being conducted under duress.  Criminal charges against Rapanui activists have been filed.  The Rapanui issued a letter to the Pacific Island Forum requesting their right to secede from Chile.

If the Chilean government fails to abide by the rule of law, the Rapanui may become extinct, depriving the world of one its  great civilizations, a truly unique cultural, geographical and environmental heritage.

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