Moriori consider Pitt Island (Rangihaute / Rangiaote / Rangiauria ) to be the location of the original settlement of Moriori. Archaeological and scientific evidence seems to support this and there are still today plenty of evidence of old occupation of the island. Moriori contend that they settled the islands at roughly the same time as the ancestors of today’s Maori were settling mainland New Zealand.
When New Zealand Maori took the islands, way back in 1835, those Moriori that were living there were either killed, eaten, or taken into slavery.
There is one story of ‘survival against the odds’ with the tale of Kochi “King of Pitt Island”.*
Frederick Hunt, one of the first settlers on Pitt Island (also known for a time as Hunt’s Island and again as Pitt’s Island) mentions the Moriori as his ‘native friends’ in his memoirs. He is reported as having convinced the remaining few left on Pitt Island to stow away on a whaling ship to avoid capture by Maori and certain death.
Today, many insist that Pitt Island (Rangiahuate -English 1843) (Rangiaote -more likely) (Rangiauria – Maori, post 1835) is the ancestral home of Moriori and is in fact where the ancestors first settled when they arrived from Hawaiiki. Documented archaeological physical evidence tends to support this theory.
All modern Moriori can trace their hokopapa all the way back to the eponymous ancestor Rongomaiwhenua.
Tribal traditions tell us that the founding ancestor of Moriori, Rongomaiwhenua, came from eastern Polynesia and his younger brother Rongomaitere sailed on to Aotea (thought to be Aotearoa).
What distinguishes Moriori from Maori, is their adherence to a covenant of peace which they have observed for over 500 years and which remains a beacon of hope for Moriori today. This covenant, known as Nunuku’s Law, has enabled Moriori to survive for centuries on these far flung islands.
The Moriori of today are well established in all levels of society, business and commerce, politics, sports and the arts, across Rekohu, New Zealand and around the globe.
*The story of Kochi features in a book and movie called Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry