“My name is Iovani Haoa.  The name Iovani, or Juan or John, was given to me by my stepfather, Iovani Rano, better known as Juan Tepano.  My biological father was Pío Haoa and my mother Catalina Hereveri, who died a few weeks after I was born.  I am a descendant of one of the 7 branches of the Tupahotu clan, called the Tupahotu Nga Ruti.  I don’t know how many brothers and sisters I have because we were all raised separately by other people.

I don’t like to speak of the life we had before, because it was very sad.  There were many needs and no comforts.  In spite of that, I was raised well.  I was taught not to steal, not to trespass on another’s property and to ask for things when I wanted something (instead of just taking it).  Today there are different types of young people.  There are some who are very good. It doesn’t matter if they party a lot, as long as they have a home to go to. The most important thing is that they always respect their parents.  In Anakena, there is a group of homeless young people with no family (known as “yorgos”). Something should be done to bring them back and rehabilítate them because it’s not their fault, but the fault of the adults. The problem is that there is no work for them, but I think that it’s always possible for them to cultívate the land.  I taught my 12 children to work the land, planting and harvesting their food. That’s the way I raised them and that’s the way we work today.  I’ve been married for 50 years to my wife, Olga Pakomio-Tekena, whom I love with all my “Inanga” (heart).  But about life as it used to be, it is better not to talk with people who aren’t Rapanui because there aren’t many good things to tell.

About my work with the archaeologists Gonzalo Figueroa and William Mulloy, I can tell you that I worked with them because I always wanted to learn everything that I could about the Island, walking over it, excavating and teaching others.  If I had gone to the USA, Mulloy would have been my profesor, or if to Santiago, Figueroa would have been my teacher.  But they came to the Island, so I was the teacher for those two.  This is something that they both recognized.  Just like the archaeologist Arne (Skjolsvold) of the Norwegian “Kontiki” expedition.

The restoration of the Ahu (platform) Koteriku at Tahai was done by Figueroa.  He raised the Moai (statue).  Then came a French group with two men and a woman who wanted us to make a “Pukao” (headdress or hat) for the Moai at Ahu Koteriku, so Matu´a, the Arakis’ father and I made one quickly because they were leaving in a month.  We got the “Hani Hani”(a porous red volcanic stone) from Orito hill, although the original “Pukao” were made of “Hiti Rau” (a stronger stone).  It only took us four days to finish it and we put the hat on the Moai.  The French people left.  We heard later that they died in an airplane accident.

Figueroa told me that  Mulloy was coming to remove the Pukao from the Moai because it was modern, but I told him,  “…If you remove it, I’m going home and I won’t help you any more…”, so they left it where it is.  Afterward the Council of Elders, which had 36 members, decided to replace the eyes. When they were placed in the statue, the old one revived.  I know that there is a body buried below the “Paina” (a ceremonial circle of stones) that is found at that Ahu.  It was in a pine box, so we assumed that it had come from the old church at Vaihu (around 1870 ).  I think that the body was of the person who was in charge of the “paina” ceremonies in honor of the dead.  In those days, they buried people in the place where they worked.

In 1938, when I was young, I saw a “paina” ceremony with my father Juan Tepano, and later as a adult I did one in New Zealand. There was an enormous figure made of “Mahute” (paper mulberry), used as a cape for the “Heva” (the eulogist who praised the dead). There was also the “Pera” which was when a person was buried, it was marked by a stick with a feather on the point which was placed in the middle of the tomb to indicate that the place was “Tapu” (sacred and forbidden) so that people couldn’t walk there.  The person in charge of turning the dead bodies left on the Ahu so that the liquids wouldn’t accumulate on just one side while the body dried was called the “Timo” o “Timo Rara Koreha” because it was similar to cooking a “Koreha” (eel), turning it over several times so that it cooks evenly.  On the Ahu the bodies weren’t covered by earth so that they could ventilate and dry well.  The stones that were placed around them had to be small to avoid rats getting in. When the body was dry and clean, the family of the departed was called to bury him.  If no one came, the bones were burned in a place behind the Ahu that was set aside for this.  “Avanga” is the name of the place where the bones were left, just like a cemetery is today.

When I worked at the excavations at Ahu “Nau Nau” at Anakena, I saw that on one end of the Ahu there were three “Pu” (holes) called “Pu Haka Hetu” with three different depths. They had a “Keho” (flagstone) at the base which, when you struck it, emited a sound  that was so deep it could be heard in the entire Island, even to “Vaitea” or “Hanga Nui” Each “Pu” produced a different sound and the people would sing with them.  I went to talk with the Mayor so that they would reopen them, but he wouldn’t permit it.  Although they are covered, the holes are still there.  I can say that we, the Rapanui, know that the Moai are ours, but most don’t know why they were made.  I taught my children what a Moai is and those who wanted to learn more could come me.  I taught part of my knowledge to Sergio Rapu.  He can tell the things that I know.