For the past two weeks, 500 Indigenous Peoples in Rapa Nui–a place more commonly known as Easter Island–have been occupying more than two dozen buildings over a land dispute that dates back to 1888.
In 1888, the remote island, known around the world for its monumental statues, called Moai, was annexed by a naval Officer, and turned into a province of the Chilean state.
From that point on, the Indigenous population was confined to the Hanga Roa settlement and the rest of the island was used as ranch land until 1953. 13 years later, in 1966, the Rapa Nui were given formal Chilean citizenship and the island was opened to the public for the first time.
In the years that followed, much of Easter Island was protected by the Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and, in 2007, a constitutional reform gave the island the status of a “special territory”, which granted the Indigenous People at least a degree of internal sovereignty.
Despite the gradual–or, at least, partial–restoration of their freedoms and rights, the Rapa Nui are deeply troubled over the “uncontrollable influx of tourists and settlers” on the island; and the fact that the Chilean government appears to be taking their ancestral lands to build more and more state office buildings.
The protest itself was sparked when the newly-elected Chilean President Sebastian Pinera appointed Pedro Edmunds Paoa to be the new Governor of Easter Island. According to the Guardian, Paoa is “suspected of plotting land deals” on the island.