Diego Muñoz

Māori Rapanui: Polynesians in a Latin American state

Imagining a decolonial future for the 21st century and beyond

Since the 19th century, the Native inhabitants of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) have been part of an interconnected world. After colonial confinement by Chile (1888–1966), they acquired citizenship and, in 1993, the status of Indigenous people in this state. Rapanui people also belong to the “Polynesian triangle”, a concept proposed by archaeologists and linguists to describe a “cultural area” that the Rapanui have appropriated as a vector of identity. In addition, they have become holders of Indigenous rights under international law because Chile ratified the UN declaration on these issues in 2008.

This project studies these three entangled Rapanui identities configured around the notion of decolonization, which Rapanui leaders begin to use in pursuing a possible future for their society. By approaching decolonization as a process and set of ideas and practices directed at establishing self-government, and as an epistemological framework for imagining the future of Indigenous peoples, three major questions will be explored. First, how is decolonization conceptualized locally and what are the identity discourses underlying this? Second, how is the Rapanui society reconfigured in this new situation of applying international treaties concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples? And third, how do the Rapanui imagine their decolonial future and what are the sociocultural aspects involved? The project sets out to analyse this multilayered and aspired decolonization process, both in the local context of Rapa Nui and in its transnational implications.

Article Image: A copy of the bilingual treaty of annexation signed on 9 September 1888, between the Council of Chiefs and the Chilean captain Policarpo Toro. This copy is exhibited in the reception hall of the Municipality of Rapa Nui. Photo: Diego Muñoz, November 2018, Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui. A copy of the bilingual treaty of annexation signed on 9 September 1888, between the Council of Chiefs and the Chilean captain Policarpo Toro. This copy is exhibited in the reception hall of the Municipality of Rapa Nui. Photo: Diego Muñoz, November 2018, Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui.
Article Image: In April 2011, Rapanui actors demand the restitution of land ownership, migration control, and political autonomy from the Chilean State. Photo: Diego Muñoz, April 2011, Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui. In April 2011, Rapanui actors demand the restitution of land ownership, migration control, and political autonomy from the Chilean State. Photo: Diego Muñoz, April 2011, Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui.