Can the Easter Island’s indigenous Rapanui win the battle for independence form Chile to protect their land and culture?
The famed monolithic Moai statues in Easter Island are symbols of the land’s mysterious past.
Centuries ago, the Rapanui, a people of Polynesian descent, faced the threat of extinction as the island was on the brink of ecological collapse. In 1888, Chile annexed the South Pacific Island but until 1953 it allowed a Scottish company to manage the island as a giant sheep ranch. While the sheep roamed freely, the Rapanui were confined to the town. They revolted in 1964, obtaining Chilean citizenship and the right to elect their own mayor.
Now, Chilean colonisers are threatening to wipe the indigenous culture out of existence. A wave of recent immigration to the South Pacific Island means that two out of every three inhabitants are from mainland Chile.
But among the Rapanui people, calls for independence are growing louder and protests in the past year have turned bitter and violent.
Inspired by a wave of Polynesian islands obtaining certain degrees of political autonomy, the Rapanui are demanding rights to govern their land. Leviante Araki, president of the self-styled Rapa Nui Parliament, a pro-independence organisation, has challenged Chilean rule and is taking the fight to the mainland courts to seek independence.
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