22 Dec 2017

Easter Island statues returned to people of Rapa Nui

2:12 pm on 22 December 2017

Rapa Nui's famous moai are being placed back under the guardianship of the people of the island.

Ahu Akivi Maois - statutes on the island of Rapa Nui / Easter Island.

Ahu Akivi Maois - statutes on the island of Rapa Nui / Easter Island. Photo: AFP

The statues and ancestral land formerly controlled by the Chilean National Forest Corporation were symbolically handed back by Chile's president Michelle Bachelet late last month.

The forestry corporation had been in control of the archeological sites, covering 43 percent of the island, since 1972.

The Tapura Re'o newspaper's Marcus Edensky said the actions of the local mayor Petero Paoa expedited the recognition by the Chilean president.

"He contacted a national newspaper in Chile talking about how the Rapa Nui community perhaps was considering to seek aid from other countries, like to lose all the connections from Chile. Kind of insinuating that. And I think it had big consequences, she wouldn't want to be the one responsible for losing Rapa Nui."

Marcus Edensky said The Rapa Nui National Park will now be administered and cared for by local entity Ma'u Henua.

Chile annexed the island in 1888 and the land was used for sheep farming by settlers from the continent.

The people of Rapa Nui were forced from their ancestral lands into what became the island's only town Hanga Roa.

The Ma'u Henua has expressed a desire to reforest the island with endemic plants and to restore the ancestral archaeological sites.

Its director Camilo Rapu told the Rapa Nui language Tapura Re'o newspaper that Ma'u Henua will consult widely with the people of Rapa Nui before progressing its plans.