"We know that our karāpuna would be pleased" - historic day for Moriori

By Leo Horgan

After three years of negotiations, the Moriori are initiating a deed of settlement with the Crown today.   

The settlement includes an apology from the Crown, returned lands and waters and shared management of reserves and resources.   

A series of hui around Aotearoa are planned to ratify the deed of settlement.

The peaceful Moriori inhabitants of The Chatham Islands were almost wiped out as a result of colonisation by both Pākehā from 1791 onwards and Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga, who invaded in 1835. 

The Moriori Imi Settlement Trust released a statement today saying, "These negotiations have been long and at time extremely challenging, but we are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement with the Crown and will be initialling a deed of settlement today at Parliament.

"It has been a long wait for justice for Moriori, but we know that our karāpuna (ancestors) would be pleased that we have finally reached this milestone with the Crown and that their legacy of peace and hope proudly lives on among the present-day generation of Moriori. Today, Moriori stand proud of our heritage and identity and look forward to developing a strong relationship with the Crown into the future."

The settlement includes:

  • An apology from the Crown,
  • Acknowledgment of the breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi,
  • Agreed historical account with the Crown,
  • Cultural redress in the form of return of sites of cultural significance to Moriori and protection of wāhi tchap’ (sacred areas) over DOC reserves,
  • Some commercial (shared) redress, 50% ownership of the bed of Te Whanga Moana (large lake on Rēkohu),
  • Joint management of Te Whanga and other natural resources on the Islands,
  • Some small areas of freehold land,
  • Shared customary fisheries around the Islands out to 200 nautical miles,
  • Co-management of some DOC reserves,
  • Relationship agreements with Crown agencies,
  • Restoration of Moriori place-names on Rēkohu and Rangihaute and
  • Financial redress of $18mil.

The deed of settlement will be followed by a series of hui around the country and on Rēkohu and Rangihaute to consult with Moriori descendants provide all members with an opportunity to vote to ratify the deed of settlement.

If ratified, there will be a formal signing ceremony at Kōpinga Marae on Rēkohu, likely to be later this year or early 2020.

Background :

In 1862 thirty-three Moriori elders signed a 131 petition to Governor Sir George Grey seeking restoration of land rights and release from slavery on their Island home of Rēkohu (Chatham Island).

They had lived on the islands for 800 years or more and originally had a population estimated to be over 2500 people. By 1862, that population had plummeted to about 120 surviving individuals as a result of the colonisation by both Pākehā from 1791 onwards and Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga who invaded the Islands in a British sailing vessel in November 1835 from Wellington.

Moriori had lived by an ancient code of peace that outlawed warfare, killing and cannibalism and which decreed that if two men fight when first blood drawn, fighting should cease.

The Treaty of Waitangi was extended to Rēkohu in 1842 (two years later than mainland NZ) and from that date onwards the Crown assumed responsibility for Rēkohu and its inhabitants including Moriori.

Moriori did not receive protection from the Crown as promised under the Treaty and in a period spanning 25 years following 1842 the Moriori population collapsed to a mere 120 people as a result of the harsh slave conditions they were subjected to. In 1870 the Native Land Court was set up on the Islands and over 97% was awarded to Ngāti Mutunga based on the colonial notion of ‘conquest’ and Moriori were left with small uneconomic reserves insufficient to sustain themselves.

Moriori never accepted that there had been a legitimate ‘conquest’ as they had upheld their ancient law of peace after making a conscious decision not to fight and kill the invaders, but this was ignored by the Native Land Court.

The Waitangi Tribunal that heard claims from Moriori and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri in 1994-95 found in favour of Moriori and that Moriori mana and customary rights remained intact and that they should have received “at least 50% of the land in 1870.

(Attribution: Moriori Imi Settlement Trust)