Sketch+Thoughts: Easter Island Cannibals and other Myths

As it is Easter Long weekend there are certain things that come to mind while participating in this holiday.  If you were anything like me when I was a kid I'am reminded of the stone heads of Easter Island whether it has anything to do with the holiday or not .

The stone heads; Aliens, cannibals, mystery or just a colonial past....

I suppose, especially to a kid, the idea of Easter Island was enthralling and mysterious.  In reflecting on how I learned about it I remember first learning of these 82 ton stone heads. Their imposing design and how they couldn't figure out how they got the stone on the Island was full of wonder. 

Later on, I learned this creepy story about how the Island had an ecological collapse due to deforestation and starvation. Supposedly too many trees were cut down to make the canoes that transported the stone to the Island. Evidently resulting in cannibalism. Sounds tragic no?

To write about this I was double checking up on this story and apparently the more accurate  narrative versus these myths is thus:  

Timing wise they did start making these heads when things were getting bad but they still can't be sure why.  Oddly there might be some evidence skeletons minus their skulls are buried under some of these heads.  When dutch settlers came by they inadvertently introduced disease and rats.  With no natural predators on this tiny Island there is evidence that the rats population quickly spiked toward 20 million.  To sustain them selves they ate all the seeds of the palm trees, when the trees died off this way the rat population plummeted back down toward 1 million. Between deforestation and disease the original "Moai" population slowly starved and died.

An intense history yet typical of how colonial contact can decimate a native population.  The cannibalism story (though it might of happened in desperation) was largely told by European Missionaries. The myths have this convenient convention of how a native population destroyed themselves through reckless, "primitive", and non-christian choices.  Not that many in that time could conceive of disease properly but notice how the constructed explanation works colonizers out of their historical contribution to any possible changes. More likely that all went crazy right?

If "Colonial History" is a new concept to you then this story of Easter Island is a pretty good example. Colonial history has a big effect on Canada as you might of noticed the similar transfer of disease to our indigenous population in that story.  All the term "Colonial History" is trying to do is acknowledge that our conception of the past changes greatly when the colonizers tell the story.  This reassessment of blame greatly affects the politics of the day and even hundreds of years till now because much of conventional knowledge sticks to a colonial narrative.

Vol11-Easter Island.jpg

For instance,  It wasn't till today my concept of the Island inhabitants changed from misguided cannibals to a people who's ecosystem was disturbed. I held that myth for a long time because I never bothered to learn more about what happened.  The myths that sit within Canada's history could be anywhere and unfairly changing what we conceive of ALL people around us.


Who new a childish curiosity about an island and an urge to draw stone heads could teach me about environmental ecology, colonial traumas and sociological trends?


Happy Easter!!