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World March Blog
30 September 2009

The March and the Moriori people – an experience in the Chatham Islands

Yesterday we arrived on the main island in the Chathams, Rekohu, which literally means the ‘Sun through the mist’.  The base team together with another 30 or so invited guests were met by the grandson of the last supposedly “pure” Moriori, our host, a great guy called Maui Solomon and his lovely wife Susan at Wellington airport.  From there we took a flight in a rusty old charter plane to the island for the Blessing Ceremony and Renewal of the Peace Covenant, a traditional ceremony carried out on the Island for centuries.  The Chatham Islands are so symbolic of our March because the Moriori people who lived here had eradicated violence as a means of resolving disputes, or at least eradicated murder.  Conflict resolution (when no other method was possible) was done with a form of battle in which 2 opponents fought with fighting sticks, but the first person to bleed was the loser.  It was not necessary to kill.  This was the custom for centuries until the British brought a boat load of Maori people from New Zealand towards the end of the 18th century.  The Maori (having no such problem with murder) then massacred virtually the entire population of the island, leaving only a few to survive as slaves.  The youth of the Moriori wanted to renounce the Covenant and fight the Maori to the death, but the elders overruled the younger ones, leaving the Moriori with their principles of nonviolence and their integrity in tact, but their bodies destroyed.  I’m sure this is what Gandhi would have advocated.  Sadly, the Moriori were a people ahead of their time.

The theme of the day was one of ceremony.  The Moriori elders greeted us with a traditional ceremony, and after the greetings the visitors had the opportunity to offer gifts at the altar to the ancestors.  This was a very moving moment in which thoughtful gifts connected to peace and nonviolence were offered; a portrait of Gandhi, a print of Picasso’s Guernica, a World March flag, a copy of the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, and others.  Graeme sang his version of the Marseilles with the new words, and others recited poems.  All very lovely and moving.

At night we were guests at a superb feast!  Never have I seen such large lobsters.  Truly these creatures were once monsters of the deep. :-)  Locally farmed lamb was also on offer with a selection of salads and vegetables.

The night was spent in the Marae which is were the previous ceremonies had been held, but this was like a first-class super Marae.  However, it was still basically 50 people in one room sleeping on mattresses on the floor…

This morning, some of us got up at 5:00am to take part in another blessing ceremony at sunrise.  However, Rekohu more than lived up to it’s name as “Sun through the Mist”, because we had much more mist than sun.  However, we felt invigorated as we came back inside and then dived into a fantastic English breakfast: sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs.  Honestly, I’m not going hungry on this March…

To finish the news of the day, and before I go to work on more translations and speech writing, we had some very disturbing news of a Tsunami on its way to the island.  You may have seen on the news that 14 people have died in Samoa following an earthquake.  A tsunami warning was issued and we all got very nervous as the spiritual guide of the Moriori started chanting a prayer.  However, the gods of the Moriori are with us and we have not been disturbed in our Mission.

With a big hug to all,


P.S. Maui has asked me to point out that the plane wasn’t so rusty after all!  It was in fact very shiny, but it did look like it was held together with string and tape :-)

7 comments to The March and the Moriori people – an experience in the Chatham Islands

  • claudie

    Hi Tony
    I did not know you are part of the whole March !! Great !! I will read you each day !! thanks for sharing with us. Love

  • at “we had much more mist than sun” i rolled on the floor laughing! :)

    as usual i would like to see a photo of that poor lobster before been eaten by you! :p

    here the preparations for the 2 October events (at least in Italy) are going really well.. i guess all the world will feel OUR wave..

    big hug tony and good night

    cover well there’s much wind in those areas :)


  • Hello Tony… been following up on the teams activities and hoping for the best for you and the other members of the WM team. Have you considered contributing these events to the CNN “iReport” by being an iReporter?

    Anyway, please receive a warm hug and nose touch…


  • Mariana

    You put picture of the biggest lobster you ever saw,but are you aware how huge violence is done to that lobster? You cant ask for non-violence when you are so happy watching the poor lobster. Peace for the human but for the animals also.

  • Tena ko Tony…It was great having you guys on Rekohu and hope that you have arrived safely in Ozzie. You are right about the Crayfish (lobster) being even bigger on Rekohu…usually you need a saddle to ride them to the processing factory! :). By the way, Air Chathams would not be impressed by you calling their plane a “rusty old charter”…the pilot did give us all a good look over the island and Kopinga Marae on from the air on the return journey so it more than did the job!! Warm wishes to all the team. Me rongo, Maui

  • Ian B

    There’s something curious in your article; you say “The British brought a boatload of Maori…” as if the massacre were instigated by the British, who dropped off the Maori to do it. The Maori chartered a boat all for themselves. It was an action of the Maori, not of the British. It happened to be a British owned ship, that is all.

    It’s equivalent to me hiring a car from a Frenchman and using it as a getaway vehicle in a robbery. It would be disingenous to put blame on “the French” for my crime committed with property that happened to be French owned.

    The Maori massacred the Moriori, cooked them and ate them. That was normal Maori custom; anyone who could not fight back was “fair game” for invasion and destruction. The only crime of the British in this instance was to accidentally provide the Maori with better marine technology than their own, sort of in the same way that a Dayak headhunter can be a more efficient killer with a Sheffield steel blade on his axe.

    The terrible fate of the Moriori is a Maori crime against humanity.