Whilst a timeline is illustrative and informative, it also shields us from the realities of what happened back then and cannot begin to convey the impact that the events had on the people involved. The 1791 ‘discovery’ of the Chatham Islands was the beginning of a period in New Zealand’s history that many, even today, prefer not to acknowledge. Many deny it even happened and even today in 2019, many still want Moriori to just go away.
High court injunctions and competing claims under the Treaty of Waitangi have highlighted the continuation of efforts to deny Moriori access and ownership of ancestral lands, control over resources and legal status of areas of special significance such as Waahi tchap’ (sacred sites – cemeteries)
From the first European contact in 1791, to 1800 the Moriori population was estimated to be between 2000 - 2500 people. The impact of that first meeting and subsequent European contact began to take it's toll quickly after this.
By 1810, the population had started to decline, partly due to the unwitting introduction of European diseases which the islands had, until then, been insulated from. Moriori were susceptible to the diseases bought ashore by whalers and sealers and had no resistance or experience with the simplest of illnesses.
The Moriori population in 1835 was reported as being 1664 persons, although by the end of the year, at the time of the arrival of Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama that number had shrunk to 1561 people.
Less than five years after the invasion by Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama, the Moriori population had been decimated and there were just 392 Moriori left alive on the islands.
By 1860, the Moriori population was down to just 101 persons. Ngenge (despair) was responsible for the deaths of many. The genocidal practices of the Maori slave owners ensured that the people were destined to extinction.
Some 22 years after the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed all natives of New Zealand certain rights and protections, slavery of Moriori was finally discontinued on Rekohu. With less than 100 Morori left, the end was in sight. At this time, Moriori elders first petitioned Governor Sir George Grey seeking restoration of land rights and release from slavery on their island home. Their pleas fell on deaf ears.
In the 1870 sitting of the Native Land Court, Moriori were informed that they had been 'conquered' and therefore would receive only 2.7% of the land. The rest went to Ngati Mutunga.
The Moriori population by this point was just 9 people. In less than 100 years a people that had lived on Rekohu for centuries were decimated.
Tame Horomona Rehe passed away on the 19th March 1933. He was recorded as being "The last of his race." Moriori were no more!