The hypothesis that Rapanui's founding father Hotu Matu'a might be a recent borrowing of Mangareva's founding father 'Atu Motua is tantamount to heresy in Rapanui studies. However, the possibility of a recent borrowing of the name Hotu Matu'a seems to be implicit in the single-settlement model for Rapanui. This is the model which many, but certainly not all scholars of Rapanui prehistory currently endorse. It holds that Rapanui was settled in the first few centuries A.D. by one voyaging canoe of East Polynesians probably hailing from the Marquesas; allegedly, this was the only human arrival at the island until Roggeveen's on Easter Day 1722 (Kirch 1984:266-8; Bahn and Flenley 1992:81; Fischer 1992: 181-90). This settlement model will not permit us to accept that Hotu Matu' a came to Rapanui in the first few centuries A.D. from Mangareva. which was not settled until around A.D. 1100 (Bellwood 1978). And because the two names Hotu Matu'a and 'Atu Motua are not shared by any other East Polynesian island or island group, they were evidently not known in the period of "East Polynesian regional unity" which presumably lasted from ca 400 B.C. to, at the latest, A.D. 300 (Kirch 1986:28-9; Fischer 1992: 182). The Iogic of the single- ettlement model for Rapanui, then. would semingly force us to conclude that Rapanui's Hotu Matu 'a would be a recent borrowing of Mangareva's founding father 'Atu Motua.
Fischer, Steven Roger
"Preliminary Evidence for Multiple Reanalysis and Replacement in Rapanui Settlement Traditions,"
Rapa Nui Journal: Journal of the Easter Island Foundation: Vol. 11
, Article 3.
Available at: https://kahualike.manoa.hawaii.edu/rnj/vol11/iss3/3