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In New Zealand, there is one group as much a part of folklore as the moa and the taniwha, that is the Moriori.

There are differing views concerning what the Moriori actually were. Some people believe that the Moriori were the first people to reach New Zealand, but were subsequently driven onto the Chatham Islands (Rekohu in the Moriori language) by the Maori, others believe that the two groups settled the two areas at the same time, others say that the Moriori were simply Maori from the lower South Island who migrated there.

Regardless of how they reached the Chathams, the Moriori settled there but because of the harsh conditions, they could not cultivate crops, but instead had to become hunter-gatherers, living off the birds, seals and shellfish that were plentiful on the islands. Their biggest threat to survival was inter-tribal warring which led to a great decline in the number of Moriori, so, under the orders of Chief Nunuku Whenua, the Moriori became a peaceful people; Disputes would no longer end in war but non-lethal ritual battle and conciliation.

The End of the Moriori
In 1791, the British arrived at the Chathams, and claimed them in the name of King George III. In 1793, European and North American sealers arrived and destroyed one of the mainstays of the Moriori diet. Ironically, the passivity of the Moriori, which had saved them from extinction, was ultimately what killed them when, in 1835, Maori from Wellington Iwi on a European ship arrived in the Chathams in search of land, killed and cannibalised all who fought them and enslaved those who refused to fight. Gradually, the few remaining Moriori were assimilated into Maori culture. The last full blooded Moriori, Tame Horomana Rehe Solomon, anglicanised into Tommy Solomon, died in 1933.

See Also: Maori occupation of the Chatham Islands

Information from: The Moriori-New Zealand in History: http://history-nz.org/moriori.html

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