Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, , at sacred-texts.com
The island was discovered by King Hotu-Matua, who came from the land in the direction of the rising Sun, with two large double canoes and three hundred chosen followers. They brought with them potatoes, yams, bananas, tobacco, sugar-cane, and the seeds of various plants, including the paper mulberry and the toromiro trees. The first landing was made on the islet of Motu Nui, on the north coast, and there the first food was cooked that had been tasted for one hundred and twenty days. The next day the queen started in one of the canoes to explore the coast to the northwest, while the other canoe, in charge of the king, rounded the island to the southeast. At Anekena Bay the
two canoes met and, attracted by the smooth sand-beach, Hotu-Matua landed and named the island "Te-pito te-henua" or "the navel of the deep." The queen landed, and immediately afterwards, gave birth to a boy, who was named The landing place was named Anekena in honor of the. month of August, in which the island was discovered. All the plants landed from the canoes were appropriated for seed, and the people immediately began the cultivation of the ground. For the first three mouths they subsisted entirely upon fish, turtle, and the nuts of a creeping-plant found growing along the ground, which was named "moki-oo-ne." After the lapse of a number of unrecorded years, during which the island had been made to produce an abundance of food, and the people had increased and multiplied in numbers, Hotu-Matua at an advanced age was stricken with a mortal illness. Before his end drew near, the chief men were summoned to meet in council. The king nominated his eldest son as his successor (Tuumae-Heke), and it was ordained that the descent of the kings should always be through the eldest son. This important matter having been settled, the island was divided up into districts and portioned out to the children of the king as follows: To Tuumae-Heke, the eldest, were given the royal establishment and lands extending from Anekena to the northwest as far as Mounga Tea-tea. To Meru, the second son, were given the lands between Anekena and Hanga-roa. To Marama, the third son, were given the lands between Akahanga and Vinapu. The land lying to the northward and westward of Mounga Tea-tea was the portion of the fourth son, Raa, and was called Hanga-Toe. To the fifth son, Korona-ronga, were allotted the lands between Anekena and the crater of Rana-Roraku. To the sixth and the last son were given the lands on the east side of the island. His name was Hotu-iti.
The tradition here goes back before the advent of the people on the island, and states that Hotu-Matua and his followers came from a group of islands lying towards the rising sun, and the name of the land was Marae-toe-hau, the literal meaning of which is "the burial place." In this land, the climate was so intensely hot that the people sometimes died from the effects of the heat, and at certain seasons plants and growing things were scorched and shriveled up by the burning sun.
The circumstances that led to the migration are related as follows: Hotu-Matua succeeded his father, who was a powerful chief, but his reign in the land of his birth, owing to a combination of circumstances over which he had no control, was limited to a very few years. His other brother, Machaa, fell in love with a maiden famed for her beauty and grace, but a rival appeared upon the scene in the person of Oroi, the chief of a neighboring clan. After the manner of the sex in all ages and clinics, this dusky beauty trifled with the affections of her suitors and proved fickle-minded. When pressed to make a choice between the two, site announced that she would marry Oroi, provided he would prove his love by making a pilgrimage around the island,
and it was specified that he should walk continually without stopping to eat, or to rest by day or night, until the tour of the island was completed. Retainers were selected to carry food to be eaten on the route, and Oroi started upon his journey, accompanied for the first few miles by his affianced bride, who promised upon parting, to permit her thoughts to dwelt upon nothing but him until his return. The inconstant female eloped with her other lover, Machaa, on the same evening Oroi did not hear this news until he had arrived at the farther end of the island; then he returned directly to his home, where he prepared a great feast to which he summoned all the warriors of his clan. The indignity that had been put upon him was related, and all present registered a vow that they would never rest until Hotu-Matua and his entire family had been put to death.
It appears that Machaa was a man of prudence, and seeing that a desperate conflict was imminent, he embarked with six chosen followers and his bride, in a large double canoe, and with plenty of provisions sailed in the night for some more genial clime. The great spirit "Meke-Meke" is supposed to have appeared to him and made it known that a large uninhabited island could be found by steering towards the setting sun. The land was sighted after they had been out two mouths, and the canoe was beached on the south side of the island. On the second day after their arrival they found a turtle on the beach near Anekena, and one of the men was killed by a blow of its flipper in trying to turn it over. Two months after they had landed on the island, the two canoes with Hotu-Matua and his followers, three hundred in number, arrived.
The desertion of Machaa did not appease the wrath of Oroi, and war to the death. was carried on until Hotu-Matua, after being defeated in three great battles, was driven to the last extremity. Discouraged by his misfortune, and convinced that his ultimate capture and death were certain, he determined to flee from the island of Marae-toe-hau, and accordingly had two large canoes, 90 feet long and 6 feet deep, provisioned and prepared for a long voyage. In the night, and on the eve of another battle, they sailed away, with the understanding that the setting sun was to be their compass.
It appears that the intended flight of Hotu-Matua was discovered by Oroi at the last moment, and that energetic individual smuggled himself on board of one of the canoes, disguised as a servant. After arriving upon the island, he hid himself among the rocks at Orongo, and continued to seek his revenge by murdering every unprotected person who came in his way. This interesting state of affairs continued for several years, but Oroi was finally captured in a net thrown by Hotu-Matua and was pounded to death. The tradition continues by a sudden jump into the following extraordinary condition of affairs: Many years after the death of Hotu-Matua, the island was about equally divided between his descendants and the "long-eared race," and between them
a deadly feud raged. Long and bloody wars were kept up, and great distress prevailed on account of the destruction and neglect of the crops. This unsatisfactory state of affairs was brought to an end, after many years fighting, by a desperate battle, in which the "long ears" had planned the utter annihilation of their enemies. A long and deep ditch was dug across Hoto-iti and covered with brush-wood, and into this the "long ears" arranged to drive their enemies, when the brush-wood was to be set on fire and every man exterminated. The trap was found out, and the plan circumvented by opening the battle prematurely and in the night. The "long ears" were driven into the ditch they had built, and murdered to a man.
After the defeat and utter annihilation of the "long-eared race," the tradition goes on to state that peace, reigned on the island, and the people increased in numbers and prosperity. In the course of time dissensions arose between the different families or clans, which led to open hostilities. Kaina, the chief of the Hotu-iti clan, and a descendant of the sixth son of the first king, proved himself a valiant warrior, and his possessions were increased by encroachments upon the domain of his neighbors. He died and was succeeded by his son, Huriavai, who inaugurated his introduction into the office by a three days engagement, in which the chiefs of two neighboring clans were killed. Several clans now combined forces, and after desperate fighting the Hotu-iti people were defeated, half of them taking refuge in a cave on the face of the cliff on the northeast side of the island, and the rest on the islet of Marotiri.
The besieged parties were watched night and day by their vigilant enemies, and were finally reduced to the verge of starvation. A chief, named Poya, had just finished a large double canoe at Hanga-roa, which be called Tuapoi. This was dragged across the island and launched at Anahava. Every day this canoe, filled with fighting men, cruised around the islet of Maroiri, making attacks upon the besieged Hotu-iti people whenever opportunity offered. As the people were reduced by privations, the number of prisoners captured increased day by day. The captives were taken to a place called Hanga-wi-aihi-toke-rau and portioned out to the different clans, and were immediately cooked and eaten. This is said to be the origin of cannibalism on the island, and is supposed to have been prompted by revenge.
Cannibalism, however, proved a double-pointed sword that caused dissensions in the ranks, and finally resulted in the liberation of a part of the besieged people. A chief named Oho-taka-tore happened to be absent upon one occasion, and upon his return found the bodies had all been distributed and his claims completely ignored. He demanded his share of the spoils, and was informed that "a man who sleeps late in the morning can not expect to see the sun rise." Feeling degraded by the slight, Oho-taka-tore turned his feather-hat hind-side before, to
indicate that the alliance was broken, and with his men marched off the field.
On the road he stopped at Vaka-piko, at the house of his daughter in-law, to inquire after his son. The "lady" received him with demonstrations of respect, and while listening to the story of his wrongs, stood behind him and picked fleas out of his head, which, in accordance with the native customs, was the most delicate compliment that one individual could show another.
Upon the return of her husband, whose name was Moa, the woman related the particulars of the visit of his father. Moa said nothing about the state of his feelings, but arose at sunrise and dug up a lot of potatoes and yams, which he baked in an oven. Towards evening he brought out his fish-net and employed himself in arranging the floats and sinkers. After dark he wrapped up his potatoes and yams in sugar cane and leaves, shouldered his net, and started off, after informing his wife that he was going fishing. He hid his net in the rocks at Kahiherea and then went to Mounga-tea-tea, where a palm tree was growing, from which he cut and trimmed eight large branches. At Ngana Moa he found the camp of the men who guarded the cliff overlooking the cave where the Hotu-iti people were imprisoned, so he turned and went down by the sea-shore. The men stationed there to guard the approach were all asleep, and Moa managed by great caution to pass them without being discovered. Having arrived near the cave he was challenged, and replied, "I am Moa, who seeks revenge while helping you." One of the besieged men, named Tokihai, descended from the cave and received the grip of friendship by being clasped around the belly. Moa took his food into the cave and distributed it among the thirty famished and thoroughly discouraged men who remained alive.
While the great canoe was making its predatory excursions to the islet, the combined forces had not neglected the people who had taken refuge in the cave. Every day a large net filled with men was lowered from the top of the cliff, and from it stones were hurled into the cave, killing and maiming the defenseless people. Moa, produced his palm branches and instructed his friends how to make hooks from pieces of human bone, which could be fastened to the poles and used as grapples.
Before daylight everything was in readiness, and when the net was lowered abreast of the opening, it was caught by the hooks and drawn in the cave, and the men in it dispatched almost without resistance. The prisoners got into the net, and were hoisted to the top, where by rea son of the surprise and the fierceness of their fighting their enemies were defeated and put to flight.
It happened that on the night of Moa's visit to the cave, Huriarai and a man named Vaha, who were with the party on the small island of Marori, became desperate from hunger and made an effort to capture one of the men guarding the sea-beach. The sentry saw one of the men
swimming towards him; it proved to be the chief Hariarai, who was so much exhausted that he was clubbed to death without making much resistance. Vaha, however, landed some distance off, and creeping upon the sentry killed him while he was bending over the body of his victim. Vaha hastily buried the body of his chief among the rocks and taking his victim upon his back swam back to his companions on the islet. The people there were without means of making a fire and the body had to be eaten raw. In the morning, when they saw the escape of their comrades from the cave and the desperate fighting on the cliff, they all swam ashore and joined forces.
The traditions, from this point, are a record of tribal wars, abounding in feats of personal bravery and extraordinary occurrences, but of little value to the history of the island. The discovery of the island by Hotu-Matua and his band of three hundred, together with the landing already referred to, is probably correct and seems natural enough down to the division of the land and the death of the first king. The wars and causes that led to the migration of the people from that unknown land, called Marae-toe-hau, are no doubt based upon a foundation of facts. There is no good reason for doubting the description of the climate of their former home, which would, if accepted, locate it somewhere about the equator, or at all events in the tropics. The heat could not be the effect of volcanic action, or their legends would not state that the crops were burned up by the sun at certain seasons.
The improbable, not to say impossible, part of the story comes in, where Machaa steals away and lands upon the same island which his brother's party reach two months later, by simply steering towards the setting-sun. There is not one chance in a million, that two canoes could sail for thousands of miles, steering by such an uncertain and indefinite course, and strike the same little island. The tradition states that Hotu-Matua found the island uninhabited, and immediately contradicts this by the ridiculous story of his brother and his followers having been there two mouths. It is not unlikely that the natives, anxious to maintain the credit of the discovery of the island, attempt to account for the presence of an earlier people in this way. This might account for the killing of one of Machaa's men by the turtle, for it has no possible bearing upon the story, beyond the fact that it would account for Hotu-Matua finding a tomb or burial-place on the beach at Anekena, when lie first landed.
The story of Oroi disguising himself as a servant and sailing for mouths in an open canoe, filled with naked savages, without his identity being discovered, is too absurd to be considered, beyond ascribing an origin to the enemy or enemies who murdered Hotu-Matua's people, and whose stronghold was on the rocky cliffs near Orongo. One peculiar feature of the tradition is the allusion to the fighting-net, which must have been something after the fashion of those used in old Roman times. These nets are represented to have been square and weighted at the
corners with stones. A lanyard was fastened to the center, and the net was thrown over an antagonist, who was beaten to death while entangled in its meshes. It is worthy of remark that nothing of this sort has been discovered among, the Polynesians or their contemporaries on the coast of America.
The suddenness with which the tradition jumps into the warfare between the descendants of the first king and the "long eared race" is startling, because no previous reference has been made to such a race on the island. It is hardly possible that the "long-ears" were descended from people who landed with them on the island, for those that came with Hotu-Matua were of the same clan, and it is fair to presume that the same customs obtained among them all. Besides, the legends all make a distinction between the "long-eared" race and the descendants of the first king. The "long-ears" appear to have been a power in the land at an early period in the history of the island, though they were eventually defeated and exterminated by the others.
It is possible that there has been more than one migration of people to the island, and that their traditions have been mingled together, but there can be no reasonable doubt about the progenitors of the present islanders being of the Malayo-Polynesian stock. It is difficult to account for the statement, so frequently repeated throughout the legends, that Hotu-Matua came from the eastward and discovered the land by steering towards the setting sun, because the chart shows no islands in that direction which would answer the description of "Marae-toe-hau."