“Hey! How’s it going? My name is Tu’u ko Iho. I am one of an estimated nearly 1000 moai that were hand-carved from stone by the Rapa Nui people over 500 years ago. Our actual number, as concluded by a recent moai self-headcount, is closer to 887. My deep elliptical eye sockets, which were crafted by the native Rapa Nui, held eyes made of coral that they extracted from the southeastern Pacific Ocean, and possessed pupils formed from either red scoria or black obsidian volcanic rocks. They stare stoically over the island toward the coast, and throughout my many, many years have seen many, many changes. Much of what I have seen has filled my stone-cold heart with lamenting and sadness. Especially the potential and seldom discussed extinction of one kind of species: the human animal.
“My name, Tu’u ko Iho, was the name of the captain of the crew that chief Hotu Matu’a led when their two-canoe expedition from Marae Toe Hau arrived on my island. Personally, I never liked that name and would have preferred to have been named Bob or Sam or Tim, but few may name themselves, so most must bear the moniker others have dubbed them. Oh well, what’cha gonna do? At least they didn’t name me Seymour or Cornelius or Stewart or something even worse. My moai friends here just call me T. K.
“Somewhere around the year humans count as 1200 AD/CE, Hotu Matu’a was fleeing from a neighboring chief on Marae Toe Hau who had some big bug up his butt about one thing or another, and after having had his own butt kicked 7 ways from Sunday in battles by the other said chief. So, while Hotu Matu’a may not have been much of a warrior, I guess you would say he was at least a decent enough explorer of unknown worlds. Honestly, I never met the man, so what I’ve just shared with you comes from chit-chatting with my other moai stony brethren here (hey, it helps pass the time) on Easter Island. Anyway, it was after the Rapa Nui settlers got settled in, they whipped out their stone cutting tools, hammered and chipped away, and carved all of us.
“Today is Easter Sunday, and that’s a pretty big day here for us on Easter Island. On April 5th, which was an Easter Sunday in the year you folks call 1722 AD/CE, the first European arrived. He was a Dutch dude named Jacob Roggeveen. Roggeveen proceeded to wound and kill about a dozen humans like him who then currently inhabited the island. Many could say that Jacob was one of those guests-from-hell. Me? From what I’ve witnessed with my very own eyes over the years I’d say he was just another human being that was being a human being. Admittedly, he was also the one responsible for the then newly adopted name for our island, so go figure...
“Thereafter many came and went; the Captain Don Felipe Gonzalez de Ahedo from Spain in 1770, then 1774 marked the arrival of a British explorer known as James Cook (yeah right, as if that was really his real name!), French Admiral Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, came here around 1776, and a lot more followed after them. They were as impossible to get rid of as what the Māori natives called the kiore, also known as Polynesian rats. Once you got’em you got’em for good, or at least so it seems.
“During the 19th century, a bunch of Peruvians paid us a visit. Turns out they were slave raiders and abduction was their game. We moai were not too bothered by them, but oy vey! more than half of the island’s people population were not so lucky. Some, who were enslaved and later repatriated, when returned were smallpox carriers as it turns out. Later on, as if that wasn’t bad enough, visiting missionaries and some sailors from whaling ships introduced the islanders to tuberculosis, which killed around a quarter of the remaining inhabitants. Maybe those missionaries who were sharing more than just their religion with the natives were simply fulfilling their mission of introducing the locals to God, albeit quicker than one would want, but who am I to say? Oh yeah, I’m Tu’u ko Iho, remember?
“One may wonder what they’d do after they had such a negative impact on others. But another Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Onésime Dutrou-Bornier, bought up most of the workable land on the island at bargain prices. After a bit more of this, that, and the other, only 111 living Rapa Nui remained on Easter Island. If you bother to do the math, it meant that over 97% of the natives had been decimated in less than a single decade. Chile, in 1888 annexed the country that once belonged to the Rapa Nui people with some treaty, and we all know how treaties usually work out for the natives, don’t we? Yeah, right.
“Do you like knock-knock jokes? Alright, knock-knock! Who’s there? It’s the 20th century. The 20th century who? The 20th century, who then icily introduced the surviving Rapa Nui islanders to the hard, cold concept of private property ownership. Now you may ask who then owned this private property, and you can bet dollars to doughnuts that it wasn’t the indigenous Rapa Nui. Oh no, it was now controlled by the Scottish-owned Williamson-Balfour Company, and managed by the Chilean Navy. After the Chileans annexed the island the Rapa Nui people were decreed Chilean citizens (wow—big whoop). By the beginning of the 21st century, illegal fishing by foreign entities had depleted the supply of fish that once fed the families of the indigenous Rapa Nui.
“I know this is a very sad story, and if my elliptically shaped eyes were not merely pieces of coral with puny pupils of black obsidian or red scoria, I would probably cry tears of sorrow. But being made of stone, I simply cannot. Yet still, deep within me, my stone-cold heart aches in woe. Have any of you ever heard tales of any boulders inflicting on any other boulders the inhuman pain and cruelty my unblinking eyes have had to watch all these centuries? My moai friends and family certainly have not. Did you just hear that loud cracking sound coming from all across Easter Island? It was just the sound of all our stone hearts breaking in unison for you.
“Anyhoo, today is another Easter Sunday on Easter Island. And this is Tu’u ko Iho, your brokenhearted moai pal and good buddy saying happy Easter to everyone. Maybe one day you may want to come by and pay us a visit here on Easter Island. Then on second thought, maybe that’s not such a hot idea.
“So, I’m off now to band practice with a few of my more musically talented moai friends. Bet you can’t guess what name we came up with for the group: T. K. and the Talking Heads, and we’re a hard rock band, of course. May I leave you with a few flyers for our next gig that you can share with some of your friends? Okay, later!!!!”