The Society of Friends of Easter Island

by Roberto  Rojas P. – Antropólogo / Anthropologist

The anthropologist and investigator Rolf Foerster, who was a professor of the University of Chile, has dedicated his research and writing to the native communities of La Araucania and the Mapuche peoples, as well as studying the political history of the Rapanui (Easter Islanders).  At the present time, he is working on a project financed by FONDECYT on Easter Island, to contribute to saving the local heritage. During his most recent visit to the island, he met with the President of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community to present his latest book in Spanish «Rapa Nui; La Sociedad de Amigos de Isla de Pascua; Documentos de una impugnación nacionalista (1946-1953)», Editorial Catalonia, 2018.

The Sociedad de Amigos de Isla de Pascua (Society of Friends of Easter Island) was formed on the 9th of May in 1947 with the primary objective, according to its statutes, of promoting progress on Easter Island for the well-being of its inhabitants.  The institution began with 12 members, which shortly grew to more than 400. The first Board of Directors was presided by Humberto Molina-Luco, who was at that time the Intendant of Valparaiso; his vice-president was the Austrian agronomist and archaeologist Federico Felbermayer. The objectives of their initial program were: a) the total eradication of Hansen’s disease (leprosy), b) supplying safe drinking water and electricity to the population, c) construction of a new school and 4) reforestation of the Island.

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The emergency formation of SADIP was triggered by the awareness made public by the medical system that Hansen’s Disease, instead of diminishing, was increasing and threatening the survival of the community. In addition, the miserable conditions under which the islanders lived were an offence to humanity; this without mentioning the Law Nbr. 3220 of 1917 which left the natives subjugated to Chilean Naval authorities (and therefore lacking any civil rights) and as objects of exploitation on the part of the commercial company which held the Island under lease.

In 1947, the Society made the first experimental plantings and, in short order, had three agricultural plots managed by SADIP in full production.  Three years later, they began the installation of 24 tons of pipes for drinking water, they had finished modernizing the leprosarium in the sector “La Colonia” and they had built the new school.

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Leprosario en aquella época
Leprosarium at that time

Sor Concepción, Margarita & Rafael Haoa

Pabellón de mujeres – Women’s pavilion

The first Rapanui, whose education on the continent was financed by the Society, was Rafael Haoa, who studied nursing for 5 years in the Naval Hospital of Valparaiso.  Later, the institution supported Joaquín Rapu-Pua and Napoleón Paoa-Languitopa, who learned carpentry and mechanics and were hired by the Municipality of Valparaiso. Following that, the Society funded the studies of obstetrics for Antonia Rapahango and the years of study for Valentín Riroroko-Tuki in the Agricultural School of Laguna Verde.  They also gave support for training for Ventura Chavez-Hito (a civilian employee of the Navy), Lázaro Hotus-Ika and Andrés Paté-Tuki, who studied agriculture in La Cruz.  The institution continued its work until 1957, but after a few years in abeyance, it was reactivated until 1974.
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