The process of subjugation through alienation and marginalisation continues unabated on the islands of Rekohu. Moriori; those resilient people that lived here at the edge of the world, undisturbed for centuries until the blundering European discovery of their misty isles took them down a pathway of horror and hatred that few New Zealanders even know about. Most of those that do know prefer not to dwell on this unsavoury piece of our ‘great nation’s history. No-one can justify the way that the Government of the day dealt (or didnt) with what happened. Successive Governments have yet to come to terms with this nasty piece of history in a meaningful way (no-not money) too.

In the 1980s we witnessed the beginning of something remarkable here on Rekohu, with the gradual re-establishment of the mana of Moriori through the filming of a television documentary and the simple act of erecting a statue. Some of those folk that were involved in that task were ridiculed and laughed at from behind the curtains by many. Many of whom still reside here today. Others, those with the mental acuity to understand the gravity of what they were witnessing, conceded that it was probably appropriate, and anyway, all those that might be threatened by this resurgence of a dead people, those who might potentially be guilty of an historical crime, and their children’s children had all moved on. (Few carried any guilt and nor should they have, but the meaning of guilt and the reasons behind it change with the times. A crime against society today may well be commonly acceptable in thirty years time. Cultural practices 5 decades ago may be an embarrassment for the next generation.) There were many that challenged the motivation of those pushing for recognition. There still are today. Whatever the reasons for how people viewed this act, the statue in question is a magnet to those that are prepared to understand some of the history of these islands. Few doubt the importance of the figure, historically and even the moderately intelligent can understand how he became such a pivotal, recognisable figure in what was to follow.

davis-kingAt the end of the 1980s we saw the publication of those two wonderful books by New Zealand’s acclaimed historia, the late Michael King. Working with the narrative of Moriori of that time, he wrote an essential expose of what had passed, interspersed with actual images and some breathtaking accuracy and research. These books bought it home to a lot of people who maybe subconsciously knew that things were not right at home. They certainly gave the national consciousness some food for thought, although by the end of the decade/century everyone was more worried about Y2K and aeroplanes falling out of the sky than they were about an embarrassing ‘distraction’ in the story of New Zealand’s history.

Such an embarrassing distraction, that we will not acknowledge it in our education system in case it upsets too many people and disturbs the status quo.

In the 1990s we saw the wranglings and threshings of the Waitangi Tribunal and those sad, but determined attempts to thwart natural justice by those who (at the time) could barely bring themselves to admit that there was even such a thing as a Moriori people. Doggedly, they turned on their neighbours, and fought to protect ….. what? Their way of life, … (that wasnt under threat.) The natural order of things? (Well that was obviously wrong wasnt it.). Perhaps they saw themselves as the descendants of the 1835 invaders and these Moriori upstarts preening themselves in the court room of the Waitangi Tribunal were nothing more than the great great grandchildren of their previous vassals and therefore should be treated as such. No, the reality is that the arguments were over greed. They thought that Moriori were going to get something that they werent going to get. (Truth is, they should have.)

“Ngäti Mutunga claimed that Moriori were not Mäori and therefore not covered by the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975.” Te Manutukutuku 2001

Moriori sought recognition of their continued identity as the rangata hunu (Tchakat henu – people of the land) of the Chatham Islands, along with compensation for cultural and material losses. The 2001 Waitangi Tribunal report found that:

  • Moriori were covered by the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975.
  • Slavery inflicted upon Moriori was contrary to the law and to standards of human rights recognised at the time. It was also a breach of the Treaty.
  • Slavery continued on Rekohu long after it had ended elsewhere, and was tolerated by the Crown.
  • It was feasible for the Crown to have intervened. Failure to do so cost many Moriori lives, and prejudiced their later land claims.

Anyway, I digress,….. So this rising up of Moriori-dom certainly kicked off with the claims process (at least in the wider ‘public consciousness) and Te Iwi Moriori had a mandate to proceed. Most of New Zealand had no idea about what was going on and many would have been horrifed to know that there was even another ‘people’ of any part of New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands. Some knew where the islands were, but few would have been there.South-Coast

The claims process gave Moriori recognition locally, nationally and through the ingeniousness of a few, internationally. There were lots of hiccups at home though as people felt that the claims process caused them to have to take sides. Some families found themselves split with their loyalties as many by this era had maori, european and moriori ethnicity and bloodlines.

Albatross feathers, once worn proudly in the hair and beard by Moriori as a symbol of peace, re-emerged as a political statement during the 1991 bicentennial celebrations of the Chatham’s arrival. They were worn by Moriori and their supporters, and presented to visiting dignitaries.

In 2005 the first Moriori marae to be built on Rēkohu in over 160 years was officially opened. Seen from the air, its design resembles the wings of the great white hopo (albatross). This bird has great symbolic resonance for Moriori. The name of the marae, Te Kopinga, refers to the sheltered groves of kopi (karaka trees) where ancient Moriori held their meetings.

Taking a step back, Moriori were united politically  (at least) when in 2001 the Hokotehi Moriori Trust was formed and mandated to pursue claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. They were still united, in front of the country and the world with the opening of Te Kopinga in 2005.

In 2007 Richards released his book Manu Moriori, (see my earlier comments) which I believe was un-sanctioned by HMT. Despite the beauty of the book, I raise it as an example of someone making unauthorised use of the intellectual property rights of an indigenous people. The apparent lack of consultation at the time seemed to me to illustrate the imbalance between the rights of Moriori and the rights of Maori, as consultation (under the RMA?) was necessary  to change the All Black’s haka etc etc.

In 2010, Learning Media -the publishing arm of the Ministry of Education published a series of School Journals, essentially bringing Moriori to the consciousness of 2500 schools around the country that received free copies of the journals.

In 2008, the crown put Hokotehi’s claims on the back burner and inter-‘tribal’ dissension amongst the various factions, both political and social caused a lack of faith among members. Financial pressures, structural changes, attempted coups and long-running disputes took its toll on Hokotehi.

Cloud-Atlas_Autua_001In 2012, a movie starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry  was released called Cloud Atlas, with one of the central figures being based on Ko Che “King of Pitt Island”. Sadly, it was filed in Spain, the Uk, Scotland and Germany, with some ocean scenes filmed in Hawaii. Moriori characters were played by moko-ed Afro-Americans. Not a Moriori or a Rekohu scene to be see.

Whilst there have been bouts of chest beating and loud voices and much gnashing of teeth in the interim, some of the wiser figures in Moriori-dom understand that Moriori cant afford to stop moving forwards. They cant afford to just stand still arguing either, because they dont have to actually take a physical step to the rear to be dragged backwards into being an often-overlooked footnote in history – they just have to stop pushing. The rest will happen as the world passes you by. Since 2012 much work has been going on behind the scenes at Kopinga and further afield. Finances have been consolidated, expansion of the economic base grounded to a halt resulting in the need for restructuring and retrenchment. Numbers working there were cut, positions were dis-established and the commercial arm of the Iwi (Imi) shrunk to next to nothing. The cultural and spiritual arm continued to work away, often in the background and a renewal of energy was being harnessed from within.

In December 2015 a fresh mandate was sought from the hundreds of members around New Zealand and Rekohu and once again Moriori are back on the path to recognition.


But one of the ways in which successive governments (or is it society itself) have effectively stymied aspirations of acknowledgement or acceptance has been through both deliberate and incidental marginalisation. And that process continues unabated today. (To me, it appears that National Governments have less of an appreciation of Moriori than do Labour led Governments. 640They (Labour) have at least showed remarkable empathy towards the plight, dating back to David Lange. Even Helen Clarke understood the significance and importance of ensuring that Moriori are empowered as a people.)

Each of the local schools have to report student achievement data annually. This data is then published on several websites by various bodies. The website has one of the easier viewing platforms for looking at this data.

(The government loves data and one of the reasons why they have these national standards and why they publish all this data is that they can then identify those subsets of the student population that are at the bottom end of achievement. So, since the introduction of Nation Standards, the subsets that cause the most concern, and that schools are now MADE to concentrate on and report on specifically are Maori, Pasifika and Boys. Also schools have to focus on lifting achievement in Numeracy and Literacy)

On Rekohu there is another subset of society that is completely overlooked in the reporting of academic achievement: Moriori.  Irrespective of the Moriori population in those schools, these schools are the very place that Moriori culture should be thriving and should be the main context

Of all the places in the world where this should be important!

200 moriori in the 2013 Census were aged under 15. Now I understand that they don’t all live here on Rekohu, but some do. Some of those statistics live here and should be counted where it really counts. If the numbers are so low as to be not worth mentioning, then that should be of concern and should be being reported and some questions should be being asked.

TapuThe three schools do not differentiate between Maori and Moriori and I can tell you from experience: Moriori are not Maori! Dont make that mistake. They might be maori, but definitely identify as not being Maori (its all in the capital) An easy answer is that there is no capacity on the forms to include Moriori stats. Nonsense. A simple refusal by all three schools to provide the data until the ministry “includes ” the ability would be all that it takes.

These three schools are the future of these islands. They educate every child (nearly) and they influence the thinking that these children have. These same children that grow into the leaders of tomorrow. If the students that pass through these schools are shown the casual disregard for Moriori that the statistics suggest, then the renaissance has been dragged backwards by thirty years or more, and the effects will show for a long, long time.

Another common argument is that families with proven, known Moriori heritage are not enrolling their children as Moriori in schools because of the perceived social stigma and lack of advantage for the child compared to being enrolled as Maori. THAT needs to change. That is part of the on-going marginalisation. (Discourage them from acknowledging their own culture)

But even more puzzling, is the way in which the schools, through their ERO reports are participating in the marginalisation of Moriori. The following table illustrates several things, including how “Moriori” is once again fading from some of our local education establishments. The tables have the number of times that each word (Maori and Moriori) is mentioned in each respective ERO report AND they contain the number of students on the roll, broken down by ethnicity – Maori and Moriori. (Remember, the child has to actually be enrolled as Moriori to be counted as one).


Before you carp on about “Well, we dont write the reviews, ERO does!”  Sorry. Incorrect! Schools do get to negotiate the shape and content of the final report. If your school is actually doing anything meaningful about Moriori and using it as a context for learning, ERO would have no choice but to include it throughout each report.

It may well be that there is no appetite for all that Moriori stuff within your school setting. (Schools are empowered to use contexts and evetnts in their local curriculum that have meaning to the students arent they?) Perhaps that in itself is just the reason for doing it. If not here on Rekohu, then where else?

Those School journals that were published in 2010 were percieved as an opportunity to educate hundreds of thousand of kids across New Zealand about the history and story of Moriori AND about the Chatham Islands and life here for our moko. One set of publications was never going to do that alone. I would bet that few if any teachers actually used the journals. None of my kids, or whanau ever have, apart from when they were fresh because some of our moko were featuring in them. They probably sit gathering dust, when they could be built on, added to and improved, as an ongoing narrative. But, oh no, Learning media are no longer charged with producing school journals as they were. So that has cut that opportunity down. One teacher that I spoke to before writing this, had spotted them on a shelf, but she had never used them because she didnt understand the issues and there were no supporting materials with them, unlike most journals since.

Statistics New Zealand say that there was 750-ish people that identified as being Moriori back in 2013. Statistics also say that the Moriori population of Rekohu in 2013 was only 39 folks. 39 out of 650. 5% of the population. Some folks would think thats great. Some folks would think that was cause for alarm. What do you think?

Marginalisation does not have to be deliberate. It can be a side effect of our actions without us even knowing (or caring).





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s