Rekohu-Chathams-Wharekauri History

These island were the last major Pacific Islands to be settled. They were first occupied by Polynesians some 800 – 1000 or more years ago. In isolation, those people developed a unique culture on these remote islands and became the people known to the wider world as the Moriori. They named their ancestral island home “Rekohu”, and developed a sacred covenant of peace, which has remained unbroken for 600 years – which surely must be a world record for peace-keeping!

The Chatham Islands were ‘re- discovered’ by Europeans in 1791 by Lieutenant William Broughton, commander of the HMS Chatham. European settlement on these islands dates from the early 1800’s, with sealers, then whalers and farmers establishing themseves here.

In 1835 two groups of New Zealand Maori arrived: Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga. They made their home on these islands that they called “Wharekauri”.

Over the following nearly 200 years, while keeping their individual cultural identities, these people (Moriori, European and Maori) have become the Chatham Islanders.

Around the islands there are numerous historic and cultural sites, many of which can be visited with a guide:
  • Moriori settlement sites
  • Significant examples of Moriori tree and rock carvings (dendroglyphs and petroglyphs)
  • Memorial to Tommy Solomon, the last known full blooded Moriori
  • Early European settlement by German missionaries and English pastoralists
  • Remnants of whaling and sealing stations
  • Sites of early Maori settlement.
  • Places of historic and cultural importance can only be accessed with an approved guide.

  • Flowerpot Bay
  • The Stone cottage at Maunganui was built in the 1800s
  • The Glory Cottage was built as a shepherds hut in 1886
  • Motapu, Pitt Island
  • This was home for the legendary Moriori Chief Nunuku.
  • The Chapel on Pitt island: Our Lady of the Antipodes
  • The remains of a shore-based whaling station
  • The remains of an early settler's house
  • Smuggler's cave, or Hunt's Cave, this was reportedly used for the smuggling of Rum, Tobacco and other illegal contraband
  • The Stone Cottage: made from local stone.
  • The beginnings of a restoration project on a Sunderland flying boat
  • The final resting place of the Thomas Currell
  • Whalers and sealers once roamed these shores

Recommended reading and viewing

  • Discover the Chatham Islands: First to see the sun by Cherry Lawrie and Jocelyn Powell (Australia). ISBN: 097509919-1
  • Chatham Islands: Heritage and Conservation, edited by Colin Miskelly (Canterbury University Press). ISBN 9781877257780
  • Moriori: A people rediscovered (1989) by Michael King.  Auckland
  • The Feathers of Peace (video recording). Producer, Ruth Kaupua; writer and director, Barry Barclay.  Auckland: He Taonga Films, 2000.