Last modified: 2018-07-17 by ivan sache
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Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia (page no longer online):
Maupiti is the furthest west of the Leeward Islands' high islands. It is 315 kilometers from Tahiti and 40 kilometers west of Bora Bora. This tranquil island, also known as Maurua, is the smallest of the Leeward Islands. Maupiti today is almost flat like an atoll, the exception being a small mountain of volcanic residue in the center that rises to a height of 380 meters. It has an area of only 13.5 square kilometers.
The island is surrounded by a large, clear lagoon. Inside the lagoon are long islets, or motu, with white sand beaches that are ideal for growing watermelons and cantaloupes. The southern side of this enormous block of basalt resembles a pyramid with a pointed ridgeline that slopes downward from the 380-meter high Mt. Teurafaatui, also known as Mt. Nuupure, in the center of the island down to a steep slope above the village of Vaiea. The island is surrounded by a wide coral reef with a series of motu that fringe the lagoon and have a collective area more than double the size of the island. The lagoon is wide, but very shallow, and is covered with coral and sandbanks. A pass through the southern part of the coral reef is located between two motus, creating a strong, dangerous current. Boats must wait for favorable conditions before entering or leaving the lagoon through this hazardous pass.
The first European to discover Maupiti was Dutch explorer Roggeveen in 1722. But long before that, Maupiti had a special place among the Polynesian archipelagoes, for it was here, it is said, that chiefs came from other islands for gatherings that included investiture-like ceremonies. Such gatherings may have been due to the island's place within Polynesian cosmology. Anyway, the island has been inhabited for a very long time, as the archeological discoveries over the past 25 years have proven. There are a group of burial sites that may date back to around 850 AD, plus or minus 85 years, on Motu Paeao at the northern end of the lagoon. Those sites contained adzes, fishhooks, lures and pendants made from sperm whale teeth. Such objects are similar to, but older than, what was found in the Wairau site in New Zealand. The result is another piece of evidence for retracing the dotted path of human movements in the South Pacific. Other archeological discoveries on Maupiti include some 60 marae around the island's circumference.
Maupiti furnished other islands with black basalt pestles, which, besides being distinguished by their large, curved handles, are certainly very ancient in origin. They are used to crush taro and medicinal herbs in wooden plates and are no longer made.
Maupiti remained independent until it was united with Bora Bora during the reign of the last royal family. Immediately after that, Protestant missionaries arrived and deeply implanted their beliefs among islanders, who were already very religious. The whaleboat Charles W. Morgan, which later became a floating museum in Massachussets, arrived at Maupiti in 1842. A member of the crew married a daughter of a chief, who gave him many descendants.
Today's population of 1,127 people (1996 census) lives in the village of Vaiea, earning a living from watermelon crops and copra harvesting on the motu. A small airport that handles flights to and from Tahiti has helped to develop tourism on Maupiti, with visitors staying in family pensions.
Ivan Sache, 1 December 2017
In the 2018 Games of the Leeward Islands held in Bora Bora, Maupiti used a blue - the island's representative color - flag with the island's name in white letters in the center between a pestle on each side of the name.The flag used during the 2017 Raromatai festival, the Maupiti flag was green with two white flowers on both sides of a black pestle.
The pestle is a basaltic tool emblematic of the island, also featured on the island's official seal.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 13 March 2018