The Moriori people are thought to have arrived in the Chatham
Islands off the coast of New Zealand either just before or at the
same time as the first Māori were busy settling on the mainland.
It is sometimes claimed that the Moriori were a race that settled
in New Zealand previous to the arrival of ancestors of the Māori;
however it appears that there is no evidence to support this belief.
The Moriori named these islands Rekohu, after the mist which hangs
over the area. Here, the Moriori remained isolated until the European
discoverers arrived in 1791. Although the Moriori are close relatives
of the Māori, they have distinct features which indicate an independent
colonisation from tropical Polynesia.
These first settlers were said to be descended from Te Aomarama
and Rongomaiwhenua (which is Moriori for Sky Father and Earth Mother).
The names of the three canoes bearing the first Moriori settlers
were : Rangi Houa, Rangi Mata and Oropuke.
Similarly to the Māori, inter tribal warring led to a dangerous
decline in the number of the Moriori population, and this was said
to have been stopped by the chief Nunuku Whenua, who ordered no
more warring to take place so that the population would not become
decimated. If a dispute took place, the custom was to cease immediately
at the first drawing of blood. In this way, the Moriori became a
totally peaceful people.
The main activity in the harsh conditions of these islands at that
time then became hunting birds, seal and shellfish for survival.
The Moriori population increased to an estimated 2000, but later
fell to around 1660 after the arrival of the first Europeans.
The Europeans arrived in the Chatham Islands (Rekohu) in 1791,
as part of George Vancouver's expedition. The British Lieutenant
Broughton sailed in on the brig "Chatham", took possession of the
islands in the name of King George III, and gave them their present
day name. As with Abel Tasman and Captain James Cook, the first
confused encounters led to violence, with some Moriori being killed.
From 1793, whaling and sealing ships
from Europe and North America began invading New Zealand and the
Chathams, making the Chathams the centre of this industry. They
largely ignored the Moriori "tapus" which were directed against
killing on breeding grounds, and this European activity killed off
one of the main sources of the Moriori diet.
In 1835 Māori tribes from the Wellington area arrived in the Chathams,
driven south in search of new land, and claiming ownership of the
Chathams. A number of Morioris were killed and others captured.
The Moriori numbers fell to 101. Most of the Māori eventually
left the Chathams by 1870. It was Solomon's grandfather, the chief
of the Rauru tribe, who convinced the Moriori to remain pacifist
during the invasion of their land.
Tame Horomona Rehe Solomon, known as Tommy Solomon, the last
full blooded Moriori, died in 1933.
The Chatham Islands make up a group
of ten islands, within a 40k radius, separated 800k from the city
of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Only the two
largest islands are inhabited, Chatham Island, with a population
of around 700, and Pitt Island, with a population of around 70.
The Chathams are part of New Zealand territory.
Pitt Island was named after William Pitt, first Earl