The flag of Raiatea
Raiatea (or Ra'iatea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti. The island is widely regarded as the 'centre' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawaii, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea. Havai’I or Hawaiki are believed to be traditional names of the island. The main township on Raiatea is Uturoa, the administrative centre for the Leeward Islands. There are colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti. We met a lady who told us that the only maternity facilities are here in Utoroa. Women come in from the surrounding islands at eight months and stay until mother and baby are alright to travel. An expensive business, our lady told us, so she only has one “kids”, a daughter.
Situated on the south east coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae which was established by 1000AD. Taputapuatea marae, an ancient marae mentioned in the traditions of Polynesian peoples, including, the Māori of New Zealand, who regard this place as a sacred marae of their ancestors. This is where the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a landed on her first voyage in 1976.
Etymology: The proper spelling of the name, rarely used though, in the Tahitian language is Ra’iatea, meaning bright sky or soft skylight; Ulieta is an obsolete transcription commonly used in the 19th century. The extinct Ulieta bird originated from this island, along with other unknown species, there is only one drawing of it in the world which is in the Natural History Museum, London.
Geography and population: The islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are both enclosed by the same coral reef, and may once have been a single island. Raiatea covers eighty eight square miles and Tahaa a mere thirty four. nine passes around this island and two around Tahaa allow communication with the surrounding ocean. The highest point on Raiatea is Mount Tefateaiti rising to 3,333 feet, Tahaa has Mount Ohiri at 1,935 feet. Raiatea is both the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a land area of 64.7 square miles and a total population of 12,800 inhabitants. The largest commune of Raiatea is Uturoa on the north side of Raiatea and has a population of nearly 10,000.
History: Captain James Cook anchored here in 1769 after Wallis’ discovery of Tahiti. This was the beginning of a delicate colonisation by the Europeans, marked by war. The Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who sailed with explorer James Cook, was born in Raiatea around 1725. Omai (c.1751-1780), another young man from Ra'iatea, travelled with European explorers to London in 1774 and also served as an interpreter to Captain Cook on his second and third journey. At the end of the eighteenth century, the chiefs of Bora Bora, Tefaaroa and Mai, successfully conquered Raiatea and Tahaa. A powerful struggle followed to gain control of both islands but it was Tamatoa, the son of Tatu, who unified the islands some thirty years later.Converted to Christianity, he implemented a code of obedience to the missionaries, which spread throughout the Leeward Islands, all except for Huahine.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Pomare family, then reigning over Tahiti, tried to establish power over the other Society Islands. Many attempts to conquer these islands finally lead to to the rise of King Tamatoa VI (the last monarch), who reigned from 1884-1888.
In 1847, France recognised the independence of the Leeward Islands, but forty years later the annexation of the archipelago by Governor Lacascade, caused an uprising led by Teraupo. For ten years war ravaged the islands. Finally, with many difficulties, the French won and Raiatea and Tahaa surrendered.
Transportation: Raiatea has a small road that runs around the entire island. Raiatea Airport is located in Uturoa.
Administration: The island is divided into three administration communes (municipalities): Uturoa, Taputapuatea and Tumaraa. These three communes are inside the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands.
Economy: The island economy is mainly agricultural with exports of vanilla, pineapple and coconut. Noni - Morinda citrifolia is also grown. Faaroa Valley is a large and important agricultural region with the rural economy and the cultivation of vanilla supported by a local research facility. Pearl farming is also an important industry while farming cattle, sheep and pigs has decreased. There is less tourism compared to the other islands in the archipelago.
The local tourist infrastructure comprises boarding houses, two marinas and associated yacht charter companies, and a four star hotel, The Hawaiki Nui and a port for visiting cruise ships. There is also a fledgling local industry in the maintenance of yachts and shipbuilding. The main source of employment is the island's public service and the consumer market.
ALL IN ALL ANOTHER LOVELY LITTLE ISLAND.
COMES IN JOINT SECOND WITH MOOREA