In Tahiti, Tii was the first man, and was made from red earth. The first woman was Ivi who was made from one of the bones (ivi) of Tii (Tregear 1891:151).
In the Marquesas Islands, there are various accounts. In one legend Atea and his wife created people. In another tradition Atanua and her father Atea brought forth human beings (Tregear 1891:151).
In the Cook Islands, traditions also vary. At Rarotonga, Tiki is the guardian of the entrance to Avaiki, the underworld. Offerings were made to him as gifts for the departing soul of someone who is dying. At Mangaia, Tiki is a woman, the sister of Veetini, the first person to die a natural death. The entrance to Avaiki (the underworld) is called ‘the chasm of Tiki’ (Tregear 1891:151).
According to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) legend, Hotu Matu’a, the first chief brought along a moai (other traditional sources mention two) symbolizing ancestors, which became the model for the large moai. Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg of the Easter Island Statue Project at UCLA says that the first stone statues originated on Rapa Nui, although oral traditions do not support this and hers is just an opinion. Others contend that the first statues originated in the Marquesas or the Austral Islands.
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithichuman figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahuaround the island’s perimeter. Almost all moai have overly large heads three-eighths the size of the whole statue. The moai are chiefly the living faces (aringa ora) of deified ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna). The statues still gazed inland across their clan lands when Europeans first visited the island in 1722, but all of them had fallen by the latter part of the 19th century.
The statues were carved by the Polynesian colonizers of the island, mostly between circa 1250 A.D. and 1500 A.D. In addition to representing deceased ancestors, the moai, once they were erected on ahu, may also have been regarded as the embodiment of powerful living or former chiefs and important lineage status symbols.
It is not known exactly which group in the communities were responsible for carving statues. Oral traditions suggest that the moai were either carved by a distinguished class of professional carvers who were comparable in status to high-ranking members of other Polynesian craft guilds, or, alternatively, by members of each clan. The oral histories show that the Rano Rarakuquarry was subdivided into different territories for each clan.
Oral histories recount how various people used divine power to command the statues to walk. The earliest accounts say a king named Tuu Ku Ihu moved them with the help of the god Makemake, while later stories tell of a woman who lived alone on the mountain ordering them about at her will.
Scholars currently support the theory that the main method was that the moai were “walked” upright (some assume by a rocking process), as laying it prone on a sledge (the method used by the Easter Islanders to move stone in the 1860s) would have required an estimated 1500 people to move the largest moai that had been successfully erected. In 1998, Jo Anne Van Tilburg suggested fewer than half that number could do it by placing the sledge on lubricated rollers. In 1999, she supervised an experiment to move a nine-tonne moai. They attempted to load a replica on a sledge built in the shape of an A frame that was placed on rollers. A total of 60 people pulled on several ropes in two attempts to tow the moai. The first attempt failed when the rollers jammed up. The second attempt succeeded when they embedded tracks in the ground. This was on flat ground and used eucalyptus wood rather than the native palm trees that would have lived on the island.
And in comemoration of Pacfic Island history, cultural restaurants, Tiki bars and their drinks... are another expression of the tradition.