Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Easter Island (Rapa Nui)



Thor Heyerdahl proved that settlement could have been from South America by his voyage on a raft using the trade winds but there is not enough evidence to be certain whether or not this was the case.

Early history on Easter island has two main traditions. The first, the story of a conflict between the 'Long Ears' (Hanau Epe) and the 'Short Ears' (Hanau Momoko) who apparently lived scattered amongst each other rather than in separate groups, begins with seven sons of one family being killed by one Ko Ita for cannibalism. The Long Ears hid at Poike where they made a ditch, planning to drive their enemies into it and burn them but the Short Ear wife of one of them betrayed them and they were driven into their own trap.

It is possible that the two groups, considered to be separate races by some, were actually only separated by class distinctions: the word hanau actually means 'to be born' and Padre S. Englert defines epe as 'fat' and momoko as 'thin' which may have meant that the two groups merely represented an economic contrast. However, archaeological research at the battle site does not bear out the story of the fire trench. Poike is not a generic Rapa Nui word and occurs in a myth in which two Tongan brothers ravaged the mythical island of Yayake (where Poike was) in revenge for the deaths of two Tongan women so it is possible that it was a reworking or this earlier myth. The second story was recorded by Englert - a man who was descended from the only Long Ear survivor was one of the first to go on board the Dutch ships but was then killed the following day when shots were fired into the crowds and describes how the Dutch 'gave him liquid and food but he did not eat or drink. He took the liquid and washed himself with it by pouring it over his head.'

The island was 'discovered' by the Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen in 1722 who first sighted it on Easter Sunday. Several people were killed by Dutch cannon within moments of their landing. They arrived in a traditional hierarchical society with sacred, hereditary chiefs. With the more ceremonial Spanish arrival in 1770, the island was claimed for Spain, but by the time Cook stopped there in 1774, the crosses they erected had disappeared. Cook's men did some exploration and joined a ritual procession during which they were offered food. The natives offered to trade and relations were peaceful.

In 1804, the Pacific slave trade, 'blackbirding', began to visit Rapa Nui culminating in 1862 when high levels of injury, death and loss were aflicted on the island. The year after slave raids stopped, Catholic missionaries arrived and were joined by native assistants from Mangareva and the Tuamotos in 1866. The local people were moved from their ancestral land and made to live near the village, Hanga Roa, and Materveri. The whole population had been baptised by 1868. It was introduced to a more European lifestyle and crafts such as large-scale woodworking and home-building were encouraged. Introduced diseases and malnutrition caused many deaths and by 1872 there were only 111 Rapa Nui on the island. The rising of 1914, instigated by the prophetess and leader, Maria Angata Veri Tahi a Pengo Hare Kohou, consisted mostly of robbing stores to try to improve the extremely poor quality of life of the majority of Rapa Nui (those on the regular staff at Mataveri did better).

The island now belongs to Chile as does neighbouring Sala y Gomez and the Archipelago de Juan Fernandez, San Felix and San Ambrosio which are between Easter Island and South America.


A'Hei Aongatu Atamo Uhu Atamu Atan Atua
Ehiti Ka pura Einu Ehoraie Eurauraga Fati Hanihani Haoa
Hare Kai Hiva Hatui Hei Hetereki Huki Ika
Iko Inaki Inaki-Luki Kaituoe Kiko Mahinaee
Make-Make Motuha Ororoina Pakarati Pakomio Pea
Pipi Horeko Porotu Rano Rapu Riroroko Sanne
Te Pihi Teao Teave Tei Tetua Temaki Tepano
Teriieroo Tikaroa Tiki Torometi Tuki Tumu
Tupa Tuputahi Tuu-ko-ihu Uhi Uki Vai


A'Arero Angata Eroria Haukena Ika Ko Te Oho a Neru
Ko Uka Mata Poepoe Moko Pingei Pakarati Paoa Rangitaki
Ruita Tahu-tahu Te'ree Upertina Urepotahi Veriamo


Spanish and Rapanui surnames include the father's last name followed by the mother's first name or initial.


Makemake creator, birdman cult
Vie Kenatea his wife
Hana male companion of M
Vie Hoa his wife
Hina moon goddess
Tangaroa master builder, lord of the seas
Tane first man, brother of Tangaroa, lord of forests and trees
Rongo (Lono) agriculture, voice of thunder
Tahaki 'the perfect chief'

Settlement Legends

Hotu Matu'a the Great Parent, leader of settlemant expedition
Ava Rei Pua his wife
Tu'u Ko Ihu in second canoe, sacred figure or priest, possibly a god
Haumaka H.M.'s tattooer who encouraged him to leave for a new land
Nuku Kehu master builder who came with H.M.
Tuu-ma-heke H.M.'s eldest son, returned to homeland : transference of monolith idea
Miru either 2nd son or grandson, descendants were spiritual leaders

Family Of Hotu Matu'a

Every islander could trace his descent to one of Hotu Matu'a's six sons. Status was defined by birth order going back to the sons.

Tongaroa - creator god  
Ko Rongo - Rongo a Tongoroa son of Tongaroa
Tuparinga-anga son of Ko Rongo
Hotu Matu'a son of Tupuaringa-anga
Tuu-ma-heke eldest son of Hotu Matu'a
Te Kena, A Honga sons of Tuu-ma-heke

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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