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Kingdom of Rapa Nui
Kāinga o Rapa Nui (Rapa Nui)
Reino de Rapa Nui (Spanish)
c. 4th century – 1888 / 1902
Flag of Easter Island
Top: 1880–1899
Bottom: 1899–1902
Coat of arms of Easter Island
Coat of arms
Location of the Kingdom of Easter Island in the South Pacific
Location of the Kingdom of Easter Island in the South Pacific
StatusIndependent Kingdom (until 1888)
Chilean Protectorate (1888–1902)
Common languagesRapanui,
later Chilean Spanish
• c. 400
Hotu Matuꞌa
• 1892–1899
Rokoroko He Tau
• Settled
300–400 CE
• Annexed to Chile
September 9, 1888
Today part ofChile
-Easter Island

Easter Island was traditionally ruled by a monarchy, with a king as its leader.

First paramount chief

The legendary, first chief of Easter Island is said to have been Hotu Matuꞌa, whose arrival has been dated in the 4th, 6th[1] or 9th century AD.[2] Legend insists that this man was the chief of a tribe that lived on Marae Renga. The Marae Renga is said to have existed in a place known as the "Hiva region". Some books suggest that the Hiva region was an area in the Marquesas Islands, but today, it is believed that the ancestral land of the Easter Islanders would have been located in the Pitcairn Mangareva intercultural zone. Some versions of the story claim that internal conflicts drove Hotu Matuꞌa to sail with his tribe for new land, while others say a natural disaster (possibly a tidal wave) caused the tribe to flee.

Despite these differences, the stories do agree on the next part: A priest named Haumaka appeared to Hotu Matuꞌa in his dreams one night. The priest flew out to sea and discovered an island, which he called Te Pito ꞌo te Kāinga ("The Center of the Earth"). Sending seven scouts, Hotu Matuꞌa embraced his dream and awaited the return of his scouts. After eating, planting yams, and resting, the seven scouts returned home to tell of the good news. Hotu Matuꞌa took a large crew, his family, and everything they needed to survive in the new land. Then, they rowed a single huge, double-hulled canoe to "The Center of the Earth"[3] and landed at Anakena, Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

Tuꞌu ko Iho

Example of statues related to the mythology of Tuꞌu ko Iho, from Australian National Maritime Museum.

According to Steven Roger Fischer's Island at the End of the World, a certain individual named Tuꞌu ko Iho co-founded the settlement on the island. Fischer's book claims he not only did this, but a legend says he "brought the statues to the island and caused them to walk".[4]

Children of Hotu Matuꞌa

Shortly before the death of Hotu Matuꞌa, the island was given to his children, who formed eight main clans. In addition, four smaller and less important clans were formed.

  1. Tuꞌu Maheke: the firstborn son of Hotu. He received the lands between Anakena and Maunga Tea-Tea.
  2. Miru: received the lands between Anakena and Hanga Roa.
  3. Marama: received the lands between Anakena and Rano Raraku. Having access to the Rano Raraku quarry proved extremely useful for those living in Marama's lands. The quarry soon became the island's main source of tuff used in the construction of the moai (large stone statues). In fact, 95% of the moai were made in Rano Raraku.[5]
  4. Raa settled to the northwest of Maunga Tea-Tea.
  5. Koro Orongo made a settlement between Akahanga and Rano Raraku.
  6. Hotu Iti was given the whole eastern part of the island.
  7. and 8. Tupahotu and Ngaure were left with the remaining parts of the island.[6]

Royal patterns throughout Easter Island

Over the years, the clans slowly grouped together into two territories. The Ko Tuꞌu Aro were composed of clans in the northwest, while the Hotu Iti were mainly living in the southeast part of the island. The Miru are very commonly seen as the true royal heirs who ruled the Ko Tuꞌu Aro clans.

Since then, leaders of Easter Island have been hereditary rulers who claimed divine origin and separated themselves from the rest of the islanders with taboos. These ariki not only controlled religious functions in the clan, but also ran everything else, from managing food supplies to waging war.[7] Ever since Easter Island was divided into two super-clans, the rulers of Easter Island followed a predictable pattern. The people of Rapa Nui were especially competitive during those times. They usually competed to build a bigger moai than their neighbors, but when this failed to resolve the conflict, the tribes often turned to war and throwing down each other's statues.

Lists of the paramount chiefs and historical kings of Easter Island

(The alternative rulers after Terahai: Koroharua, Riki-ka-atea, whose son was Hotu Matua, then Kaimakoi, Tehetu-tara-Kura, Huero, Kaimakoi (or Raimokaky), finally Gaara who is Ngaara on the main list below.)

Modern claimants

See also


  1. ^ Carlos Mordo, Easter Island (Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books Ltd., 2002) Page 14
  2. ^ Edmundo Edwards and Alexandra Edwards When The Universe was an Island Archaeology and Ethnology of Easter Island. Page 18, Ediciones Reales 2012
  3. ^ Mordo: P. 49
  4. ^ Steven Roger Fischer, Island at the End of the World (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2005) P. 38
  5. ^ Mordo: P. 109
  6. ^ Mordo: P. 50
  7. ^ Mordo: P. 50-51
  8. ^ a b Englert, Sebastián (2004). La tierra de Hotu Matu'a: historia y etnología de la Isla de Pascua : gramática y diccionario del antiguo idioma de Isla de Pascua. Editorial Universitaria. p. 65. ISBN 978-956-11-1704-4.
  10. ^ a b Pakarati, Cristián Moreno (2015) [2010]. Los últimos 'Ariki Mau y la evolución del poder político en Rapa Nui. pp. 13–15.
  11. ^ Aaron Nelsen (March 30, 2012). "A Quest for Independence: Who Will Rule Easter Island's Stone Heads?". Time. Retrieved October 3, 2022.

Further reading