The Chatham Islands represent a unique archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, belonging to the New Zealand administrative territory. It is unique in both natural landscape and historic or cultural heritage. Today we would like to invite you to meet the historic and cultural aspects of the Chatham Islands.
History of the Chatham Islands
The earliest settlers of the Chatham Islands were belonging to the Polynesian tribes. Due to their separation of the other lands in the Pacific Ocean they became Moriori people. Moriori people are considered as the indigenous population of the Chatham Islands.
The first Europeans that arrived on the actual Chatham Islands were landed on these islands on the 29th of November 1791. They were part of a British expedition on its name the Vancouver Expedition. The captain of this expedition was William R. Broughton and he was leading the ship HMS Chatham. Actually, the name of this archipelago was given after this ship name. And the two largest islands of the archipelago were named after John Pitt, who was the 2nd Earl of Chatham. So, the largest islands were called Chatham and Pitt
Moriori people were for non-violence and due to this, many of them were killed by the new arrivals from the neighbors’ Maori tribes on the Chatham Islands. Those that survived become slaves of the invaders. After this black era of the Moriori people, they started to recover and to regain their culture. Nowadays the Moriori people are organized in a local organisation, the Hokotehi Moriori Trust. Moriori people have rights that are ensured by the New Zealand government. The population of Chatham Islands reached the number of 650 and includes people that are belonging to both Moriori and Maori populations. There are still several fights for their rights, but the New Zealand government is trying to ensure rights for both of them, as for example grants for fishing areas.
Culture on the Chatham Islands
As in any other culture, the first settlers of the Chatham Islands had many proofs of their living on these islands. There are rock carvings in the Nunuku’s Cave. Besides these rock carvings, you may see here tree carvings, called rakau momori, in Hapupu National Historic Rerserve or the Taia Bush Historic Reserve. Even the agriculture was adapted by the first settlers to the local climate.
Nowadays most of the culture and history of the Chatham Islands can be found in the Chatham Islands Museum. This museum includes artefacts of the first settlers. Another site full of culture is the Glory Cottage, which is the oldest building on these islands.
As for the modern culture and arts, there are several artists that are dealing with indigenous arts and also ceramic. You will find on the Chatham Islands many gift shops, craft shops and galleries, great places where to come closer to the ancestral culture of these islands.
The history of the Chatham Islands began around the 1400s. And starting from that time, Moriori people are trying to keep alive their history, nowadays living together with those from the Maori people. We are sure that the Chatham Islands have a unique culture that is given by local history.