Early European visitors to Easter Island recorded the local oral traditions about the original settlers. In these traditions, Easter Islanders claimed that a chief Hotu Matu’a arrived on the island in one or two large canoes with his wife and extended family. They are believed to have been Polynesian. There is considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of this legend, as well as the date of settlement. Published literature suggests the island was settled around 300-400 AD, or at about the time of the arrival of the earliest settlers in Hawaii.
The Cousteau Society will focus on working with local community groups and schools with help from teams of international volunteers to reform the Poike Peninsula, recognized as one of the most eroded and degraded areas of the island. Along with the planting of 1,400,000 trees, The Cousteau Society has prepared an environmental education program for children and a training program for adults so they learn how to best care for their land. Volunteering for the Cousteau Society program in Rapa Nui will allow them to demonstrate that what they can do “for the small island in the middle of the big Ocean,” we can do for “the little planet Earth in the middle of the big Universe.”