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Hanga Roa
Eugène Eyraud (1820 – 23 August 1868) was a lay friar of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the first Westerner to live on Easter Islandmarker.

Early life

Eyraud was born in Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaurmarker, France, in 1820. He became a mechanic by profession. He went to Boliviamarker, and acquired mining interests there.

Arrival on Easter Island

Eyraud entered the Holy Ghost Fathers as a novice. Influenced by his brother Jean, a missionary in China, he left Chile for Tahitimarker in 1862 and arrived at Hanga Roamarker on 2 January 1864. He was harassed by the islanders, and only stayed nine months before being repatriated to Chile on 11 October 1864. A year and a half later, on 27 March 1866, he settled on the island as a full priest, accompanied by Hippolyte Roussel and three Mangarevan converts.


Although fiercely opposed at first, Eyraud eventually came to be highly popular and influential among the islanders. In October 1866, Gaspar Zumbohm and Théodule Escolan joined Eyraud and Roussel in their mission, and set up schools at Hanga Roa and Vaihū.

On 22 December 1866 Eyraud wrote

He assisted that year in what would be the last ceremony of the Birdman cult.

Eyraud had contracted tuberculosis during his first visit to the island, and died of it on 23 August 1868, nine days after the last islanders had been baptized.


During his first stay, Eyraud remarked that in each house there were wooden tablets covered with "hieroglyphs", now known as rongorongo, but that the islanders no longer knew how to read them and paid them scant attention. He didn't think of informing Roussel or Zumbohm, and never wrote of them again. In wasn't until 1869, when Zumbohm presented a gift which, unknown to him included a tablet, to Bishop Jaussen in Tahiti, that rongorongo was noticed by the outside world.

Traditional beliefs

Eyraud wrote of the islanders and their carved wooden statues, known as moai kavakava


  • L'île de Paques: des dieux regardent les étoiles. Michel & Catherine Orliac. Gallimard, 2004. ISBN 2-07-053063-9
  • E. Eyraud, « Lettres au T.R.P, Congrégation du sacré-cœur de Jésus et de Marie », Annales Association de la propagation de la foi, vol.38, Lyon 1866 : 52-61 et 124-138.


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