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  • Rapa Nui
  • Forrest Wade Young (bio)

Conflict between Rapa Nui people and the Chilean state escalated during the review year and peaked in December 2010 as Chilean military and police forces committed state violence against Rapa Nui. While the intensity of conflict has lessened since December, Rapa Nui continue to engage in large-scale public demonstrations against the Chilean state as of June 2011. Interpreting the conflict is problematic given that there are competing discursive grounds by which it can be framed (see Young this issue; Young 2011), and because most of the information available is represented in Chilean media, not controlled by Rapa Nui people. Herein I focus on representations of the conflict primarily in terms of the ways it is portrayed by scattered Rapa Nui voices in the international media.

At the close of the last review (Gonschor 2011), Rapa Nui were noted as embroiled in demonstrations sparked by the Chilean state appointment of Petero Edmunds Paoa as the new governor of Rapa Nui. Following the solar eclipse celebrations in July, conflict intensified as a number of hua'ai (extended families) reclaimed hua'ai lands currently occupied by Chilean state institutions and businesses, such as the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of the Interior, the municipality, the public school, part of a museum, and the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa (Indigenous News, [End Page 190] 3 Aug 2010). Lands began to be reclaimed on Friday, 30 July (EMOL, 2 Aug 2010). By Wednesday, 4 August, a total of eleven lands occupied by state institutions had been reclaimed (EMOL, 4 Aug 2010). Among the hua'ai reportedly involved were Atan, Chavez/Teave, Haoa, Hito, Huke, Hotus, Ika, Pakarati, Pate, Rapu, Tepano, and Tuki (EMOL, 2 Aug 2010; The Clinic, 15 Sept 2010; ST, 4 Aug 2010; Te Rapa Nui website, Aug 2010)—some of the largest and most powerful of the thirty-six total hua'ai on the island. Hua'ai members set up tents, cooking grills, and fire pits on the reclaimed lands (The Clinic blog, 15 Sept 2010).

Hua'ai members who were directly or indirectly involved in the conflict represented the reclaiming of land as a response to a range of problems. Some hua'ai reclaimed lands against privatization. This was the case in the attempt of the Hito hua'ai to reclaim land occupied by the new high-end hotel, the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. The US$50 million hotel is a development of Cristoph Schiess, the chief executive of one of the largest private companies in Chile, Empresas Transoceanica (AP, 7 Feb 2011). Resistance to privatization was also fundamental to the Haoa hua'ai's reclaiming of lands occupied by municipal institutions. Reina Haoa, an eighty-five-year-old woman, emphasized that she had provided the municipality land to use in order to improve the functioning of the town at the request of her son Alfonso, who was mayor at the time. On learning that new state leaders hoped to privatize and sell this land she stated, "I went from my home and I came to get my land and I will stay here until I die" (The Clinic blog, 15 Sept 2010; translated from Spanish).

Some hua'ai members stressed broader social and cultural problems. Piru Huke Atan, a hua'ai member involved in the reclaiming of land at the Chilean governor's building in Rapa Nui, represented the reclaiming of ancestral lands as part of a struggle to retain the integrity of Rapa Nui as a people (PIR, 17 Aug 2010). Hua'ai members felt threatened as a people, in part because of increasing Chilean settlement on the island. Angela Tuki Chavez complained, "Everything they do here goes badly. Especially immigration—it's not immigration, it's an invasion. The state doesn't listen to us as a distinct ethnic group" (National Public Radio, 9 Sept 2010). Valeria Pakarati saw the conflict in terms of social inequality; she emphasized that Rapa Nui are reclaiming land in a context where Chilean officials have housing while Rapa Nui increasingly have nowhere to live (LT, 3 Aug 2010). Such concerns were echoed by other Rapa Nui. Tiare Paoa emphasized problems of health, pollution...


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pp. 190-201
Launched on MUSE
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