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Pacific Island Guide  >  Easter Island

Easter Island's giant Moai figures are world famous.
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is at the far east corner of the Polynesian island triangle. Click this map to enlarge it.
Easter island.png

General Information

Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) is the southeast corner of the triangle of Polynesian islands, but administered by Chile. The island lies 2500 miles west of the South American coast, and 2000 miles east of Tahiti in the other direction. It is 66 square miles in area. It is not tropical, and has no rivers. It has large deposits of lapilli tuff, from which the early inhabitants made over 800 giant statues (called Moai) that look out to the sea.

The LDS Church has one branch on Easter Island.

Historical background

400 -600 A.D. Inhabitants arrive from the Marquesas Islands or Mangareva, French Polynesia. (Some theories say they came from Uru, which is on the borders of Bolivia, Peru, and Chile.)
1722 Dutch Explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, names it for Easter, the day he arrived.
1770 Spanish explorer Don Felipe Gonzales, claims it for Spain, but this was never made official.
1774 British James Cook and French Admiral Bouganville spend a few hours.
1800s Whalers introduce diseases.
1805 American ship kidnaps 22 islanders.
1860's Peruvian slave traders kidnap 1,407 islanders (one third of the island’s population).
1860's Peru sends 100 of the captives back, but only 10 survive, and they bring small pox to Easter Island.
1866 French missionaries set up hospitals and missions.
1868 Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Du Bornier sets himself up as governor
1871 French missionaries leave. Two hundred Easter Islanders leave for Tahiti and 150 to Gambier.
1877 DuBornier makes the island into a sheep ranch. The 150 Easter Islanders who are left murder him.
1888 Chilean Captain, Policarpo Hurtado, takes possession of Easter Island in the name of Chile “forever.”
1870-1920 Various ship wrecks leave passengers on the island.
1914 Starving islanders revolt and request to go to Tahiti. Revolt did not succeed.
1934-1935 French ethnologist, Alfred Metraux, gathers information and writes Ethnoloygy of Easter Island, published by the Bishop Museum Press.
1952 Chilean Navy takes over the island. Keeps natives suppressed.
1955 Thor Hyerdahlm, a Norwegian professor, brings his expedition to study the island.
1964 Another revolt. Elections ordered. Easter Islander named Rapu wins election. Suppression ends.
1967 Americans build tracking station and airfield. Commercial flights begin.
2000 There is a branch of the LDS Church on the island.

Resources available

Very few resources are available through the Library. The one genealogy book is:
Genealogy of the Kings of Rapa Nui, by William DeWitt Alexander is on film FHL US/CAN Film 1026225, item 2.

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