Rai'atea (räˌyätāˈä) [key], volcanic island, 92 sq mi (238 sq km), South Pacific, largest and most important of the Leeward group of the Society Islands, French Polynesia. The island is mountainous, with Mt. Toomaru (3,389 ft/1,033 m) the highest peak. Uturoa is the chief port and seat of government of the Leeward Islands; it has a fruit cannery, a government hospital, and a wireless station. Rai'atea's chief products are copra, oranges, tobacco, kapok, and vanilla. Rai'atea was once thought to be the ancient Polynesian Maraiki, the religious and cultural center from which migrations to Hawaii, the Cook Islands, and New Zealand began c.600 years ago. The Maori of New Zealand still regard Raiatea as a venerable seat of learning.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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