Alfred Metraux's Ethnology of Easter Island
The ancestors of the natives of Te Pito O Te Kainga ("A Little
Piece of Land", later called Rapa Nui by other Polynesians and
Easter Island by Europeans) came from two places known as Marae Renga
Marae Tohio in a land called Maori ("Land of the
Native People"), or
Hiva ("Black", perhaps a reference to the basalt of volcanic
islands, perhaps Mangareva; Hiva was a Polynesian name for the
In Hiva, Hau Maka had a dream in which his spirit
traveled to a far country, looking for a new residence for his king Hotu.
His spirit arrived at three small islands (Motu Nui, Motu Iti,
Motu Kao-kao) and a big hole (the volcanic crater of Rano Kau)
on the southwest corner of Te Pito O Te Kainga.
The spirit traveled counter-clockwise around the island, naming
twenty-eight places including Anakena (an anchorage on the
north coast of the island and future residence of the king); Papa o
Pea (where young princes would be raised), and Ahu Akapu
(where the abdicated king would live). When
awoke he told his brother Hua Tava about the dream.
The island was the eighth, or last, island in the dim twilight of the rising
sun. He named the island "Te Pito O Te Kainga A Hau Maka" ("The
Little Piece of Land of Hau Maka"). Hua Tava told his brother to tell
king Hotu Matua of the new land.
After hearing about the dream, Hotu Matua ordered Hau Maka to
send some young men to explore the island. Hotu Matua told his two
sons Ira (the first born) and Raparenga, and Hua Tava's five
sons, Kuukuu, Ringiringi, Nonoma, Uure, and Makoi, to build a canoe and
search for the island of Hau Maka's dream. He gave them the directions to
i lunga (upwind; i.e., southeastly, into the southeast
e tau (it juts out)
e revareva ro a (as a permanent contour)
i roto i te raa (in the midst of the [rising] sun)
He told them that there were three islets and a big hole, also a long and
beautiful road. So the seven men left in a canoe stocked with yams, sweet
potatoes, bananas, and other foods.
The canoe was named Oraora-ngaru ("Saved from the waves"),
("The pieces of milo wood lashed together").
They left on the 25th day of Vaitu Nui (April) and
arrived on the
1st day of Maro (June), a voyage of five weeks.
The explorers found the three islets and the big hole.
They sailed on to Hanga Te Pau, where they landed. Makoi
was placed in charge of marking and naming the land. Kuukuu was
placed in charge of farming.
On the tenth day of Maro (June), they climbed the slopes of
Rano Kau. Kuukuu
planted the yams. On the fifth day of Anakena (July), the
explorers began to go around the island counterclock-wise, starting with the
They followed the footsteps of Hau Maka's dream soul and named
the places as Hau Maka had named them. When fish swarmed near shore at
Hanga-o-honu (Bay of Turtles, on the north coast), they caught the fish with
their hands and tossed them ashore. They cooked and ate the fish there.
When they were near Anakena, Ira saw a turtle and tried
to lift it, but it was too heavy for him; Raparenga tried and failed.
Kuukuu tried and lifted the turtle off the ground, but it struck him and
broke his spine. The turtle, which was a spirit (kuhane), swam
back to Hiva.
Kuukuu was taken to a nearby cave on the plain of Oromanga.
He begged the others not to leave him, but his companions departed after
piling six stones outside the cave to take their places and to keep
Kuukuu company. Kuukuu
died in the cave.
The explorers went to the west side of the island and discovered a surfing
spot. They rode a wave to the right and called the place where they landed
Hanga Roa; they rode a wave to the left and landed at
They rode a third wave in and landed by Hanga O Rio. They
caught more waves, then went ashore and rested in a cave at Pu
Ira sent the other explorers surfing so he and his brother
Raparenga could secretly place some stone figures Ira had brought
from Hiva. While the others were surfing, Ira set up
three stone figures with necklaces of mother-of-pearl shell.
The shining necklaces could be seen from the ocean: the shells of Ruhi Hepii
when a surfer rode a wave to the right, the shells of Pu when a surfer rode
the wave to the left, and the shells of Hinariru when the surfer went
Ira sent Makoi around the island to name places with names
from the homeland of Hiva. [Sixty place names are given.]
After this was done,
Ira taught Makoi string figures and the secret content of the
A man named Nga Tavake, who had preceded the explorers onto the
island, then appeared, and the six explorers told him, "This is a bad land,
for when we planted yams, grass grew up instead." Then they all went to the
yam plantation planted by Kuukuu and weeded it.
Ira taught the secret of the shells necklaces and directions to his
brother Raparenga; Uure overheard their conversation and tricked Ira
into giving the secret to his brother Makoi.
Ira, Raparenga, Uure, Nonoma, and Ringiringi left Te Pito O Te Kainga on the
twenty-fifth day of Tangaora Uri (October) to return to Hiva.
Makoi remained on Te Pito O Te Kainga. As the canoe left, Makoi chanted the
directions back to the island: "There are eight islands.
Te Pito O Te Kainga is the eighth. Once it has been
lost, it cannot be found again! Ruhi to the right, Pu to the left, necklace
around the figure of Hinariru at Papa O Rae straight ahead!"
King Hotu Matua ruled Hiva after his father Matua. During Matua's
reign, a group of people called the Hanau Eepe came and took
one side of the island from the Hanau Momoko, the people whom Matua ruled.
Then the Hanau Eepe tried to move the border to gain more territory. They
were captured and imprisoned. In the meantime, Matua told his son
to launch a canoe and immigrate to Te Pito O Te Kainga because a
rising tide was destroying their land.
Hotu ordered his assistants Teke and Oti to get plants and animals to
take with them on their voyage. The two men gathered banana shoots, taro
seedlings, sugarcane, yam, sweet potatoes, hau trees, paper mulberry trees,
sandalwood trees, toromiro trees, ferns, rushes, yellow roots, tavari
plants, moss, and ngaoho plants, along with birds, pigs, and chickens.
Matua reminded Hotu to take along flies as well, since the
number of human beings depended on the number of flies. He told Hotu
to take the
Hanau Eepe prisoners as well to farm the land.
Hotu then ordered his master canoe builder Nuku Kehu to launch the
double-hulled canoe that had been built for the voyage. The canoe sailed on
the second day of Hora Nui (September) and arrived at the
southwest corner of Te Pito O Te Kainga on the fifteenth day of
Tangaroa Uri (October)-a six-week voyage.
In the morning, when the explorers awoke [earlier it was said the
explorers had returned to Hiva], two canoes were seen approaching the
southwestern tip of the island, off Motu Nui.
The canoes were bound together into a double canoe, but as they came near
the land the lashings which united them were cut. One boat named "Oteka"
carried Hotu Matua and his wife, Vakai-a-hiva; the other boat, named "Oua,"
carried Hineriru and his wife, Ava Rei Pua.
Raparenga signaled with leaves to the voyagers the following message:
"The land is bad; yams won't grow because of the weeds." Hotu Matua
told Tuki to signal back that Hiva was also a bad land, as the rising tide
of the ocean was ruining it. Raparenga then signaled to the voyagers
that if they sailed to the right (east), they should stay way out or they
would be pushed into the cliffs.
The two canoes traveled in different directions around the island. Hotu
Matua went around the southern and eastern coasts of the island.
Five fishing grounds were established through the mana of a man named
Hineriru went around the western and northern coasts of the island; nine
fishing grounds were established through the mana of Teke, who
had been transferred to that canoe. Hotu wanted to be the first to reach
Anakena (an anchorage on the north side of the island, where the royal
residence would be established).
When he saw the other vessel approaching, he ordered a spell chanted, which
made his own boat go fast and Hineriru's go slow. Two more fishing grounds
were established near Anakena.
The canoe of Hotu Matua landed first at the cove. A son named
Tuu Maheke was born there to Vakai and Hotu Matua. Hineriru was a man of
intelligence, and wrote rongo-rongo (native script) on paper
he brought with him.
Among those who came in the canoes was the ariki (chief) Tuu Ko Ihu,
the maker of the wooden images; two of his sons and two grandsons
have given their names to four subdivisions of the Miru clan.
On the other canoe, a daughter named Ava Rei Pua Poki was born to Hineriru
and Ava Rei Pua (identified as a queen, perhaps the younger sister Hotu
Vaka, "the master in charge of tying the umbilical cord," performed the rite
for Tuu Maheke and then for Ava Rei Pua Poki. The canoes were then brought
ashore and taken apart so the wood could be used to make houses. After Nuku
Keku (the master canoe builder) finished the houses, seedlings were
distributed to the settlers.
Then Hotu Matua told Teke to take the Hanau Eepe and settle them in a
suitable place where they would farm the land. Teke took them to Poike, on
the southeastern end of the island, and told them "Settle here, work, and
keep peace among yourselves!" Iko ("Insect") was installed as the king of
the Hanau Eepe.
Among Hotu Matua's company there was a concealed passenger whose name was
Oroi; he was an enemy of Hotu, who had killed some of Hotu's children
in Hiva, and had hidden himself on board the migration canoe.
He got on shore at Anakena without anyone having guessed at his presence.
One day the five children of a man named Roro went to bathe at Ovahe (a
small cove east of Anakena), and as they lay on a rock in the sea, Oroi
came from behind and killed them by thrusting a lobster spine up their
anuses and pulling out their intestines.
When the children did not return, the father said to the mother, "Where are
The mother said, "On the rock."
But when Roro went to look, the rock was covered with water, for it was high
tide; by and by when the water went down, he saw the five children were
Roro then told Hotu Matua: "Oroi, that bad man, is here, for
he has killed my children.
Now Hotu Matua went to see his adopted daughter Veri Hina, who was
married and who lived at Mahatua (past Ovahe on the north coast). Oroi
put a noose in his path and tried to catch his foot in it, but Hotu avoided
it by stepping to one side.
When he had finished his visit to his adopted daughter, he said to her and
"Follow me and watch above me. If the sooty terns circle high above me, I
will live; if the terns dive down on me, I have been killed."
As he returned, he saw that the noose was still on the path, and he knew his
enemy was hidden behind the rock.
Terns circled high above him. This time Hotu Matua intentionally
stepped on the noose and fell, and when Oroi came at him with a bone
knife, he killed
Oroi with a spell, "Spin! Spin! Fall down! Fall down! Die!"
Then he called to his adopted daughter and son-in-law to see that Oroi
When, however, they put the corpse in the oven to cook it, it came to life
again, so they had to take it over to the other side of the island to an ahu
called Oroi, and there the corpse cooked quite satisfactorily, and they ate
Hotu Matua lived in Oromanga, in a house called Hare
Tupa Tuu. One day when Hotu's first born son Tuu Maheke was fifteen, Rovi,
his food preparer, went to catch eel as a side dish (inaki) for sweet
potatoes; he stayed away overnight. Tuu Maheke's mother had gone to dig up
and cook the sweet potatoes for him. Tuu Maheke began to cry.
After a while Hotu Matua got a headache and shouted, "Be quiet, you
bastard! You crybaby!" Then he left. When Vakai came home, she noticed the
swollen eyes of her son and asked why he was crying. He told her what his
father had shouted at him.
After cooking the sweet potatoes for her son, Vakai went to the house of
Hotu Matua and told him "Tuu Maheke is not a bastard! You are a bastard!
Your real father was Tai A Mahia! Kokiri Tuu Hongohongo was your foster
Hotu Matua replied, "Why didn't you tell me this back in Hiva,
Hotu Matua moved a short distance away and built a house called Hare
Pu Rangi. A month later, Vakai came to live with him. They conceived another
boy, named Miru. Hotu moved again and built a house called Hare Moa Viviri;
Vakai followed him.
Another boy was born, named Tuu A Hotu Iti; then another son was born, named
Hotu Iti A Hotu. Hotu moved again, to Hare Moa Tataka, and Vakai followed.
Another son was born, named Tuu Rano Kau.
After the last son was born, Hotu and Vakai moved to Te Ngao o Te Honu.
Vakai died. Her corpse was carried to Akahanga and buried there. Hotu
moved here and there until finally settling at Akahanga.
After a year he moved to Rano Kau, where he lived on the south side of the
crater, opposite Orongo. His last task was to fit two stones together. Then
he went into his house and laid down.
His children came and received his final blessings. Then he arose and went
to Orongo to announce his death.
He looked in the direction of his homeland, Hiva, and called
out to his guardian spirits Kuihi and Kuaha:
"Let the voice of the rooster of Ariana crow softly. The stem with many
roots (i.e., himself) is entering!"
Then he fell down and died.
His children carried him on a litter to Akahanga, where he was buried in
Hare o Ava. Later his eldest son, Tuu Maheke, cut off the head, dried
and cleaned it, painted it yellow, wrapped it in tapa, and hid it in a stone
crevice. A man named Ure Honu found the skull while weeding his
A rat (Hotu Matua's spirit) had led him to the hole where the skull
When Ure Honu built a new house at Vai Mata, he hung the skull in it.
At the feast for the new house, King Tuu Ko Ihu saw the skull and
exclaimed: "Here are the teeth that ate turtles and pigs in Hiva!"
He stole the skull and buried it under a stone near his house.
Ure Honu discovered the theft; his foster son told him who had stolen
it. Angry, Ure Honu gathered his men and went to the King's house. They tore
down a wall looking for the skull, but found nothing. They searched outside,
digging up the ground.
The king was sitting on the stone under which the skull was buried. Ure
Honu's men lifted the king off the stone, looked under it, and found the
Ure Honu was satisfied and took the skull back home.
Hau Maka had tattooed Hotu, and had "received from him in return a present
of mother-of-pearl which had been given to Hotu's father by an individual
called Tuhu-patoea. Tuhu had seen that the men who went down to get pearls
were eaten by a big fish, so he invented a net by which the precious shell
could be obtained without risk, and the pearl so procured he had presented
to his chief, Ko Riri." (Routledge 277-8). Routledge gives a different
reason for the migration: on Hiva, at the death of the chief Ko
Riu-i-ka-atea, "a struggle for supremacy arose between his two sons, Ko Te
Ira-kaatea and Hotu Matua, in which Hotu was defeated" (277).
During May, in the southern hemisphere winter, westerlies blow 32-33 percent
of the time, allowing sailing canoes to travel in an easterly direction.
(See Ben Finney's "Voyaging and Isolation in Rapa Nui Prehistory.")
According to Barthel, the ornaments may represent star bearings back to the
homeland. Or the figures could be markings used for backsighting when
leaving the islands; or markings used as alignments for safe entry into the
These two groups later came into conflict; "the short ears," descended from
Hotu Matua and Vakai-a-hiva, settled the western end of the island; the long
ears, descended from Hineriru and Ava Rei Pua, settled the eastern end of
the island (Routledge 281).
This method of killing was reported in Hiva (the Marquesas) by E.S.C. Handy.