Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 1, 2011 Volume 1

Easter Island land dispute clashes leave dozens injured
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Easter Island: At least 25 people were injured during clashes between Chilean police and locals on Easter Island. The police were trying to evict indigenous Rapa Nui people who took over buildings stolen from their ancestors generations ago.

The Rapa Nui are demanding the return of unlawfully seized  ancestral lands and protesting plans to develop their island for immigration and tourism.

 Witnesses say the police opened fire on those who refused to leave. Many say they used pellet guns and tear gas at close range.

Officials reported that 17 police officers and 8 civilians had been injured. But the Rapa Nui say 19 or more locals were injured, including one who was airlifted to a hospital for medical treatment. They also denied that any police had been hurt.

Many locals were also arrested.

"They injured at least 23 of our brothers and sisters, three of them seriously," said Edi Tuki, a relative of one of those injured. "One was shot in the eye with a buckshot pellet from just a metre away.

Maka Atan, a Rapa Nui lawyer, was shot in the back by pellets.  He said the police had been "shooting to kill.  It seems like this is going to end with them killing the Rapa Nui, [but] the land on this island has always been Rapa Nui. That's why we're asking for our land to be returned." 

The Rapa Nui are also demanding that indigenous items stolen from them by others be returned.

Raul Celis, the governor of Valparaiso, is responsible for governing Easter Island.  "There was an eviction, and buildings had been occupied illegally for several months," he said. He added that the evictions would continue and police reinforcements would be sent to the island.

Rapa Nui is the official name for Easter Island which lies more than 2,000 miles off Chili's west coast. 4,000 people live on Rapa Nui, which is best known for its ancient giant carved stone heads called Moais.  Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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