During the review period, Rapa Nui indigenous politics were principally political ecological in scope; they involved struggles to control cultural and material resources and ancestral territory and to regulate island population growth. This review highlights four major contests: the struggle for the self-determination of Rapa Nui patrimony; the continued fight of the Hito/Hitorangi family to regain their ancestral land from the Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa; political organization to establish a law to restrict Chilean and international migration to the island; and the battle to resist state and transnational forces seeking to develop the ocean surrounding the island into a marine park.
The political reclamation and occupation in March 2015 of the "sacred places" (vahi tapu) that state and transnational forces had developed into the "Rapa Nui National Park" (Parque Nacional Rapa Nui) for global tourism (Young 2016a, 240–243) [End Page 195] had become embroiled in complex state strategies of criminalization of Rapa Nui leaders by August 2015 (Young 2017, 173–175) but stabilized in favor of Rapa Nui movements for self-determination as the review period began. In July and August 2016, the foundations of the co-administration of the park were established: on the second of July, the Rapa Nui–determined organization Ma'u Henua was officially created; and on the second of August the board of directors was elected by the Rapa Nui people (Análisis Informativo, 26 Aug 2016). Ma'u Henua represents itself as an "indigenous community" in partnership with the Chilean state National Forestry Corporation (Corporación Nacional Forestal, conaf) to administer the park; it reports ultimately not only to conaf but to the Rapa Nui–determined organization Honui, which is an assembly of representatives of the recognized thirty-six indigenous "extended families/clans" (hua'ai) that constitute the Rapa Nui people (Parque Nacional Rapa Nui, 2017). In a self-determined election, 792 of 1,004 registered Rapa Nui voters elected the following board of directors of Ma'u Henua: Camilo Rapu (President), Tavake Hurtado Atan (Vice President), Pepe Tuki Hito (Secretary), and Petero Hey Icka (Treasurer) (UCVmedios, 25 Aug 2016). Anakena Manutomatoma, one of the Rapa Nui representatives on the Chilean government–organized Commission for the Development of Easter Island (codepia), which supported the creation of Ma'u Henua, noted that the partnership is understood to be temporary; the full agreement calls for a complete transfer of administration to the Rapa Nui people during September 2017, following a year of co-administration (Análisis Informativo, 26 Aug 2016). The transfer and strength of Ma'u Henua administration was a result of complex negotiations. conaf representatives tried to "severely restrict" the participation of the Rapa Nui people in the co-administration and did not specify a transfer date in its initial draft of an agreement; however, Honui leaders successfully challenged the draft by quoting a speech of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet that agreed to a transfer during an island visit in April 2016 (UCVmedios, 25 Aug 2016). In an official plenary meeting on 19 January 2017 at the Chilean National Library in Santiago, Chile, between Ma'u Henua, codepia, conaf, and other state representatives, evidence was presented that the transition was thus far successful; revenues collected from tourism under the Ma'u Henua administration of the park had on average doubled and exceeded expenditures, and the number of protected "sacred sites" (vahi tapu) had increased from five to twenty-five. While at times there was disagreement between representatives of Ma'u Henua and those of conaf, the transfer of administration was seen to be progressing toward the agreed-on goal of a complete transfer of power in September 2017 (Prensa Rapa Nui, 26 Jan 2017).
In contrast to the progress on self-determination of Rapa Nui patrimony, in October 2016 the Hito/Hitorangi family—who had been seminal in the 2010–2011 struggles of the Rapa Nui people to reclaim lands developed by the Chilean state and private interests that culminated in state violence [End Page 196] against the Rapa Nui people (Young 2012)—reasserted conflict with the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. Large banners placed in front of the hotel have long obstructed the ocean views of the guests with statements critiquing the hotel. But on 6 October 2016, Hito/Hitorangi family members intensified protest by constructing an occupation camp in front of the hotel with a cooking area, sleeping tents, and benches, punctuated by a mass of Rapa Nui national flags (Biobio, 7 Oct 2016). A government order was established the next day to evict the family, but instead an agreement was later signed between family members and the government of Chile to create a discussion table to address solutions to the conflict (El Ciudadano, 20 Oct 2016). At the beginning of the new year, the occupation camp remained, with large signs reading "Hotel Pirata" (Pirate Hotel), and "Hotel built on stolen land" placed in front of the hotel (Opal Press, 7 Jan 2017). No new resolution has subsequently been publicized.
One of the benchmarks of settler colonialism is demographic. While colonialism may involve settlers, until they begin to outnumber the indigenous or other colonized peoples, settler colonialism is conceived as a possibility but is not official; a "settler colonial situation" is defined as one in which settler colonial people have become a "majority of the population" (Veracini 2010, 5). The threat of Rapa Nui minoritization emerged during the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. Chilean settlement began in the late 1960s as part of a Chilean administration that began to govern the island in terms of the 1966 legislation known as "Easter Island Law" (Ley Pascua) (Stanton 2000, 143–144). While Ley Pascua established civil rights for the Rapa Nui people for the first time in a history with the Chilean state dating to 1888, and can thus be interpreted as progressive (Delsing 2009, 158–163), it is also intelligible as the beginning of the state settler colonial project for the island. Indeed, it was only after Ley Pascua that a significant portion of the island became populated by Chileans who administered the island in terms of state-determined bureaucratic institutions on a day-to-day basis (Gomez 2010, 63–64). While in 1950 there were only 29 non–Rapa Nui out of 753 on the island (Makihara 1999, 335), between 1960 and 1981 the population increased from 1,134 to 2,335 and the number of Chilean settlers increased from 125 to 725 (Stanton 2003, 114). Over the twenty-year period of 1992–2012, there was an 86 percent increase in population on the island (iwgia 2012, 19). In a 2012 article in the New York Times (6 Oct 2012), then Mayor Luz Zasso Paoa stated that the 3,000 Chilean settlers living on the island at that time outnumbered the 2,800 Rapa Nui people (Romero 2012).
The initial passage of legislation in the Chilean House of Representatives to regulate increased settlement on the island in April 2017 in terms of the formulation of a "residential law" (Ley de Residencia) (Gobernación Isla de Pascua, 3 May 2017), and subsequently approved by the Chilean Senate in 2 August 2017 (Gobernación Isla de Pascua, 4 Aug 2017), reflects over a decade of local organizing on [End Page 197] the island. On the heels of a state truth commission that led to proposals for reconciliation with all indigenous peoples, including extensive recommendations for Rapa Nui (Gobierno de Chile 2008), community-based statutes for "Special Administration for Easter Island" dating to 2002 and revised in 2005 as well as thereafter repeatedly called for regulation of migration to the island (Gonschor 2007, 241–242). The women's political organization Makenu Re'o Rapa Nui, formed in 2009, has been particularly forceful in mobilizing for migration control (Christ 2012, 42–43), as other political organizations like Parlamento Rapa Nui have centered action on self-determination of Island government and lands (Young 2016b, 268–269), marine resources (Young 2017, 177–178), and patrimony (Teave and Cloud 2014). Ley de Residencia is anticipated to be officially signed into law by President Bachelet on 9 September 2017 on island (Biobio, 4 Aug 2017), coinciding with the symbolic date of the signing of the "Agreement of Wills" (Acuerdo de Voluntades) of 9 September 1888, which commenced Chilean colonial history in Rapa Nui (Teave and Cloud 2014, 406–408). Chilean Undersecretary of Regional Development Ricardo Cifuentes supported the legislation and emphasized that it is critical for a "different development strategy" for the Island based in "environmental sustainability" (El Correo Del Moai, 18 May 2017). Island Governor Carolina Hotu Hey distinguished the law as responding to "environmental problems" recognized by President Bachelet and as "very good news for the whole community" (Gobernación Isla de Pascua, 4 Aug 2017). Rapa Nui Municipal Councilman Mai Teao conceived the law as good for the Rapa Nui "material and immaterial culture" as well as for "the people" (Sandoval 2017). In meetings with Chilean senators, codepia representative Anakena Manutomatoma also expressed support of the law as "positive" for both the Rapa Nui people and other residents of the island (Gobernación Isla de Pascua, 4 Aug 2017). In personal communications with me (Aug 2017), Erity Teave, who is vice president of Parlamento Rapa Nui, said she was impressed with the "overwhelming" support for a law that she conceives as addressing cultural, environmental, infrastructural, and social problems that require "urgency."
The politics over President Bachelet's announcement of a marine park conservation project in collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts on 5 October 2016 at the internationally attended "Our Ocean" conference in Valparaíso—which met with public rejection by Rapa Nui leaders of codepia and the National Council for Indigenous Development (conadi) as noted in last year's review (Young 2017, 177–178)—continued throughout this period. Potential resolutions that seemed to emerge in May 2017, however, became complicated again by June. Rapa Nui Mayor Petero Edmunds announced publicly in late May that, after numerous consultations, the Rapa Nui people rejected the initial marine park proposal, emphasizing that in the context of their recent struggle to dismantle the administration of their patrimony under a Chilean national park, they were "adverse" to creating "a park [End Page 198] in the sea" (El Mostrador, 30 May 2017).
Confusingly, alternative communications were consequently expressed by state and Pew representatives at the high-level United Nations Ocean Conference on the implementation of UN 2030 Sustainability Goal 14, which I personally attended from the 5th to the 9th of June 2017 in New York City. Three broadly distinct groups of Rapa Nui people also participated in the conference: codepia representatives Anakena Manutomatoma and Poky Tane Haoa, who were among the Rapa Nui leaders who challenged the marine park proposal of the state following its announcement; members of Te Mau o te Vaikava o Rapa Nui, the organization that had supported the construction of the marine park, which Rafael "Rinko" Tuki, the Rapa Nui representative of conadi, proposed had been paid by Pew to organize island support for the marine park outside the channels established under codepia and conadi (El Ciudadano, 3 Oct 2015); and a music and dance troupe led by Ernesto "Pantu" Tepano. Though representing different political positions, the cohort of approximately a dozen Rapa Nui proudly expressed solidarity as they stood together for photos behind the Rei Miro flag of the Rapa Nui nation during the reception for an official side event of the conference entitled "Siu I Moana: Reaching Across the Ocean." The event and reception party of the conference was held 6 June 2017 and sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Foundation Bertarelli in conjunction with the governments of Chile and Italy, the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, and the UN Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (sprep).
After Pantu Tepano brilliantly led a Rapa Nui musical and dance ensemble—who opened the event with songs that accompanied musicians and dancers from Aotearoa, Hawai'i, Marquesas, and Tahiti along with a performance from a Fijian ensemble in front of large installations of tapa from Tonga and Fiji—a representative of Pew Charitable Trusts introduced the event to an audience of approximately three hundred attendees of the UN conference. Isauro Torres, the director of the environment and ocean affairs within the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs of Chile and former Chilean ambassador to New Zealand, was the first official speaker of a group that included UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson from Fiji. After Minister Torres greeted the audience in the languages of Rapa Nui, Cook Islands Māori, Māori, and Spanish, he discussed some of his own connections to Rapa Nui and Aotearoa and some of the projected plans of the Chilean state regarding the protection of the ocean. In conclusion, he stated, "Concerned, Chile is, for the protection of the ocean for Rapa Nui and for all of our insular territories. Chile has become, is promoting actively, marine protected areas. We are pleased to announce that just a week ago we are moving forward to have one million square kilometers as protected marine areas and we have to include, obviously, Rapa Nui. We will start consultation very soon on Easter Island."
Minister Torres's proposal that the projected Chilean marine park development would "have to include, obviously, Rapa Nui" was not conceived [End Page 199] as obvious by leaders of Parlamento Rapa Nui who were engaged in the Ocean Conference at a distance. Erity Teave submitted a statement of intervention to the conference that reiterated a Parlamento Rapa Nui letter sent to Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Muñoz on 7 December 2016. The statement emphasized that Parlamento Rapa Nui rejected coordination with Pew. The letter (a copy of which Teave sent to me for my files) promoted conservation under the "framework of self-determination" that constitutes the Rapa Nui people with "legal powers" to "govern and define the guidelines for their social, cultural and economic development" and emphatically rejected coordination with Pew. Instead of the development of a Marine Protected Area (mpa), the letter proposed a marine area conserved as "an area of multiple use according to our ancestral regulation and without foreign intervention." While the Chilean Ministry of Environment began to publicly announce new community consultations on the island for an alternative kind of conservation plan for a marine area of "multiple use" on its website (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 2017), and in Chilean news media (La Tercera, 2 June 2017) consistent with the intervention of Parlamento Rapa Nui, apparently counterforces of the Chilean government promoted a June 2017 announcement of President Bachelet that expressed continued interest in the construction of a marine park (Periodico 26, 1 June 2017). As the review period closed, Honui organized another public march of protest against the marine park (Biobio, 27 July 2017).
conadi Representative Rafael Tuki, whose efforts were seminal throughout resistance to the marine park proposal, conceives the ongoing proposed state strategies for reported marine conservation as deceitful "manipulation" for the promotion of global development projects—such as a newly announced submarine optic cable project to connect Chile with China—and for meeting international agreements on climate change in which marine parks are "internationally traded as green bonus areas" to offset environmental destruction elsewhere (El Ciudadano, 8 June 2017). His critical insight accords with a growing awareness of "blue-washing" as an emerging concern in Pacific Islands scholarship (Lyons and Tengan 2015, 564). Chamorro scholar and poet Craig Santos Perez indicates that, beyond the expressed purpose of conserving marine life that interests environmentalists, marine parks are often part of new economic strategies of "blue growth" that service eco-luxury tourism and an assortment of industries and geopolitical agendas (2014a, 2014b). States are noted as accumulating capital as they sell access permits for "green" use of the marine parks, giving access not only to tourism companies and actors but also to large grant–based research projects. Moreover, the United States is noted as having used these designations to enable military use of marine parks in Northern Guam, the Cayos Cochinos Islands of Honduras, and in the Chagos Archipelago of the Indian Ocean (Perez 2014a, 2014b). [End Page 200]
While the concepts of blue growth and blue-washing are relatively new, they are intelligible extensions of the late twentieth-century rise of an "ecological phase" of capitalism (Escobar 1996, 54) associated with World Bank "green neoliberalism" (Goldman 2001, 500). Green neoliberalism reformulates the relationships of nature and society within a problematic of "global survival" in which "the global ecosystem" is privileged rather than "the sustainability of local cultures and realities" (Escobar 1996, 51). Local flora, fauna, and peoples become transformed into "reservoirs of value" for the future sustainability of global rather than local projects (Escobar 1996, 57). As forms of storage of neoliberal "warehousing" strategies (Lloyd and Wolfe 2015, 8), marine parks and other green strategies become part of a spectrum of "conditionalities" for securing "large capital loans and investments" for global mega-projects (Goldman 2001, 517–518). Mystifying concepts like the global itself reappear from such vantages as deflated "networks or spheres" of social interaction where much of the earth's crowd of actors encounter a "lack of space" and limited opportunity for "placement" (Latour 2009, 144). The submarine optic cable project mentioned by Representative Tuki would involve a public-private partnership between the Chilean state–based Subtel communications company and the Chinese private firm Huawei; it is reportedly designed to "increase trade, scientific and cultural exchanges between the two countries," and initial cost estimates range up to us$650 million dollars (Jie 2017). Current maps of the proposed cable route pass through Rapa Nui (New China tv 2017). As the Chilean state continues to pursue a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (tpp) free-trade agreement (Muñoz 2017), it is certainly plausible that a Rapa Nui marine park could indeed be used to blue-wash the cable and other mega-projects of interest to Chile.
Political control and manipulation of ecological variables that a people depend on for life and social change combine in an approach known as "environmentality" (Agrawal 2005), which has emerged in the twenty-first century as a powerful tool for governmental regulation of societies and subjectivities. Public policies and practices of environmentality not only are implemented to govern existing environments of a people but anticipate new territories that state and other forces often try to preemptively secure for particular interests (Massumi 2009). In terms of the indigenous politics of "refusal," state-imagined futures and their developmental projects are often confronted with suspicion and scrutinized for strategies of "further dispossession" (Simpson 2016, 440). While the United Nations has provided evidence that Marine Protected Areas are useful global strategies for conserving the marine resources of the world (undp 2017), its "capacity building" programs serve not necessarily local peoples of the Pacific Islands but, more often, global elites (West 2016, 63–86). In organizing refusal of a marine park with possible links to future global forces of transpacific cable routes and other projects that would emerge in a tpp-centered [End Page 201] Chilean political economy, Rapa Nui demonstrate increasing consciousness of the politics of environmentality on the island. Interestingly, their organization of Ma'u Henua and the Ley de Residencia shows that the Rapa Nui people are also able to utilize environmentality to their own advantage. By regaining some, and potentially full, control of their patrimony and its associated territory, as well as securing public policy to limit migration, Rapa Nui leaders are beginning to regulate political ecological variables that are crucial for their movement toward self-determination. For political theorist Jacques Rancière, the political is provocatively less about the creation of a constitution as it is the "composition" of a new "topography of the common" (2010, 213). While the achievement of a self-determined constitution perhaps remains for a relatively distant future, Ley de Residencia and Ma'u Henua are valuable instruments of a new political economic topography that the Rapa Nui people can apply to compose themselves amid the ever more precarious global spheres of blue-washing optic-cable imaginaries and other tpp projects that Chile has generally kept "secret" from the "indigenous peoples" of the country as well as the "general public" (Aylwin, Silva, and Yáñez 2016, 214).
forrest wade young is currently a lecturer in political science and anthropology at the University of Hawai'i–Mānoa. Since completing his PhD in anthropology on the indigenous politics of Rapa Nui, his postdoctoral education is distinguished by the completion of certificate programs in Indigenous Issues and Policy at the Columbia University Center for Race and Ethnicity and in International Cultural Studies at the East-West Center.
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