Traditional genealogy of Easter Island has its origins in the recorded myths and legends of the early settlers who first came and settled on Easter Island. Legend has it that this settlement resulted either from a supernatural being called Uoke or the dreams of Hau Maka.
An old tradition related many times to Father Sebastian Englert tells of a story of a potent supernatural being named Uoke, who came from a place called Hiva, who, for reasons unknown travelled about the Pacific with a giant lever with which he pried up whole islands and tossed them into the sea where they vanished forever under the waves.
The word Hiva, mentioned in the legend as the name of the place from which Uoke came, is also the traditional name of the homeland of at least some of the people of Easter Island. The same word has also been preserved in the names of three of the Marquesas Islands - Nuku Hiva, Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa. Today the Easter Islanders do not know where Hiva lies; they remember it only as the place from which their ancestors came. Indeed, in modern times, all foreigners, regardless of their origin, are called tangata hiva, which means "men from Hiva".
Two versions of the tradition as to why the great Polynesian King, or ariki henua, Hotu Matu'a, set sail for the naval of the world have been given. The first version tells of a great cataclysm in Hiva, in which most of the land, also through the mischief of Uoke's lever, was submerged under the sea. The second version tells how a certain Hau Maka in Hiva saw in a dream the future land of Hotu Matu'a. In the spirit, Hau Maka travelled over the whole of the island observing everything and searching out the best beach for a future landing.
As other Polynesian voyages frequently appear to have done, Hau Maka sent out a reconnaissance voyage from Hiva which included Ira, one of seven youths who were told to explore the land that Hau Maka had seen in his dream. The legend left no doubt that their voyage was towards the rising sun.
After arriving at Easter Island, it is said that they treated heartlessly and without compassion one of their numbers who had been wounded by the flippers of a supernatural turtle that had come from Hiva. The members of the group decided to abandon the mission and return to Hiva. When they were making ready to leave the island, they awoke one morning and saw near the islet of Motu Nui the double canoe of Hotu Matu'a. When it was a short distance from the coast, the vessel was hailed by Ira who recommended that a reconnaissance be made around the coast. The voyagers cut the lashing that held the two canoes together and allowed them to continue their courses separately. In one canoe came Hotu Matu'a and his wife Vakai a Hava and in the other came his sister Ava Rea Tua and her husband, who according to legend was the first carver of the wooden statues of Easter Island.
Hotu Matu'a anchored on the east side of the bay at Anakena at a point still called Hiro Moko. The second canoe was moored at the other side of the bay at a place called Hanga o Hiro. With Hoto Matu'a came a master builder called Nuku Kehu who built a house at Anakena for Hotu Matu'a and another was built nearby for his wife.
Most of the people who came with Hoto Matu'a appear to have moved immediately to other localities where they began to establish new communities. Eventually they came to form eight distinctive kin-groups each with its own name. Each group had its own persons of rank called tangata honui. Their system was clearly that of a class organised or stratified society.
The genealogical succession of ariki henua, is much more confused on Easter Island than is the corresponding succession on many other Polynesian islands. Four principal lists had been compiled and each differs greatly from the others. The one collected by Alfred Metraux in 1934 includes thirty names and was regarded by Father Sebastian as the most reliable. This list is as follows:
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