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  • Rapa Nui
  • Forrest Wade Young

Rapa Nui political events, issues, legislation, and social movements from 2017–2018 articulated across a complex spectrum of local, national, regional, and global scales that transected terrestrial as well as oceanic and discursive fields. Disputes over control of Rapa Nui cultural heritage, sacred places, and the ocean that occurred during the prior review period remained focal. Ley de Residencia—the law for controlling Chilean and international migration to Rapa Nui, which was approved by Chile's national legislature at the close of review last year—was officially implemented in 2018 with the general support of Rapa Nui leadership. As the review year concluded, movement to change the official name for the island continued to gain support; however, the election of a new Chilean president forebodes a future that could radically differ from the broadly progressive present that Rapa Nui realized under the left-of-center administration led by President Michelle Bachelet.

Some of the breadth of island politics were visible during a visit to the island in September 2017, where I participated in a locally organized international seminar entitled "Dialogues Sobre Derechos Humanos Desde La Perspectiva Del Pueblo Mā'ori Rapa Nui" (Dialogues on Human Rights from the perspective of the Mā'ori Rapa Nui people), held at the ToŊariki Cultural Center in HaŊa Roa. The seminar included approximately thirty speakers and was organized by the Rapa Nui– determined organization Honui (an assembly of "family clan" (hua'ai) leaders), the Council of Elders, and the Parlamento Rapa Nui along with the support of the Municipality of Easter Island and the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (iwgia) (Sandoval 2017). Speakers included representatives of Indigenous peoples of the Basque territory of Europe, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Tahiti; scholars with expertise on self-determination in Cook Islands, globalization, and Indigenous rights in Mexico; Rapa Nui representatives; attorneys for Rapa Nui people in state and international arenas; and anthropologists of Rapa Nui, including myself and Grant McCall.

The seminar participants' peaceful dialogue was contrasted by the signs encircling the cultural center, which traced an island world entangled in a "battle order" (Foucault 1980, 16). Outside, the offices of the governor were covered in banners and flags coded in Spanish, Rapa Nui, and English that condemned the Chilean government as an "usapador" (usurper) conducting "consultas ilegalas" (illegal consultations). Signs also demanded that "their own people" and not the "Government of Chile decide for us." Up the road, large banners and black flags denigrated the front gate of the five-star hotel Hangaroa Eco-Village and Spa with slogans like "Hanga Roba Hotel Pirata" coupled with graphic images of guns paired with skull and cross-bones and statements that the hotel was "built on stolen land." Inside the seminar venue, Nancy Yáñez, the leading attorney for Honui and a descendant of the Indigenous Mapuche people of Chile, emphasized that [End Page 225] self-determination for Rapa Nui was supported by the "founding principles of the United Nations," which require all member state governments to provide "tools for people to freely define their political status" (Sandoval 2017). Attorney Ciro Colombara—who is currently representing Parlamento Rapa Nui and the Council of Elders in an ongoing legal case filed against the Chilean state in 2015 at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (iachr) within the Organization of American States (Economía y Negocios, 15 Nov 2015)—advised the Rapa Nui people that "the outcome of the lawsuit" will be fundamental to the "path" that they should organize for self-determination in the coming years (Sandoval 2017). An outcome statement of the seminar asserted that Rapa Nui people consider any "state title" or "concession" regulating their ancestral territory as an unacceptable "limitation of the territorial rights of the Rapa Nui people," and that they aspire to "have full ownership rights over their lands and territories" based on "ancestral occupation" that is "regulated by customary law." The outcome statement and the voices of participants from within the seminar, as well as the symbolic banners outside, constitute useful regimes of "veridiction and jurisdiction" for assessing the indigenous politics of the review period (Foucault 1991, 79); that is, what...


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