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Last Of The Moriori

1933: At the end of 1835, the brig Rodney ferried two large parties of Maori migrants from New Zealand to the Chatham Islands, 900 kilometres to the east.

The warlike newcomers overwhelmed the peaceable Moriori inhabitants. “We took possession,” boasted a Maori, “in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed – but what of that?”

One Moriori described how “the women and children were bound, and many of these, together with the men, were killed and eaten, so that the corpses lay scattered in the woods and over the plains”.

Yet even in the face of extreme violence, the Moriori stuck to the pacifist injunction of their ancestors: “For now and forever, never again let there be war.”

The survivors were dispossessed, separated and enslaved. They were beaten and starved. Many died from influenza and other imported illnesses.

The Moriori population dwindled from 1,600 in 1835 to 101 in 1862. By 1900, only 12 were left.

On 19 March 1933, the last full-blooded Moriori, Tame Horomona Rehe, also known as Tommy Solomon, died of pneumonia, heart failure and, perhaps, despair.

Source: Michael King, Moriori: A People Rediscovered (1989), pp. 13–16, 57–68, 156, 185–9

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