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The term Polynesians refer to the people who settled in several islands within the Pacific Ocean. These people shared many characteristics including beliefs culture and language (Kirch, 104). Archaeological evidence shows that settlement of Polynesians in the pacific islands was preceded by voyages of discovery.
Several linguists, who are historians, agree that that the earliest settlers of the southern pacific islands had some form of organization. They used a system where chiefs and commoners existed. The chiefdoms were organized differently depending on the social groups. The elite groups of Polynesians occupied small islands and also put together large tracts of land in their territories (Kirch and Green, 196). As the population of the chiefdoms increased, there was need for more land for cultivation. There had to be a way to decide which chiefdom would use which land for cultivation. The chiefdoms, therefore, used to organize contests within the chiefdoms and between chiefdoms. The contests continued to intensify with the increase in population that needed more land for cultivation.
A clear system of chiefdoms is exemplified by the inhabitants of Easter Island. There was a High chief who had great power over other nine clans and their chiefs (Oliver, 213). The high chief would come through first born lines of the founder’s decent. Unlike other Polynesians in other islands, the occupants of this island had a culture that incorporated carving of large sculptures to represent their ancestors. The carvings of large sculptures led to deforestation, which, consequently, brought a lot of famine and drought to the people of this island. The chiefdom later received a major blow when slave raiders entered the island, capturing the paramount chief, all those who would take over from him as well as those who could read and write. The intruders who came into the island also introduced diseases such as small pox which drastically reduced the population of the island. This marked the end of the chiefdoms as Europeans introduced a new culture to the Polynesians of this island.