Indigenous | Moriori

Moriori extinction claim in Parliament leaves descendants confused

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has claimed the Moriori people do not exist. Peters claimed in Parliament last week that “the last pure Moriori died in 1936″, which has sent shockwaves within the Moriori community.

Māui Solomon, a descendant of that “last pure Moriori”, Tommy Solomon, has spent 40 years promoting the Moriori culture, and says such views aren’t anything new to him.

“Look, I was told by a social studies teacher in Form Four that there were no such thing as Moriori. So, it’s something I’ve been hearing all my life, and I thought, after a lifetime of advocacy, maybe the world had finally moved on,” he says.

Moriori language expert and online tutor of Ta Re Moriori Kiwa Hammond also says, “Yes, and here is the sign, this hand touching the skin of the other, that is the sign that we, the Moriori people, are alive.”

Peters’ remarks have left some Moriori confused by his statement there there are no pure-blooded Moriori alive but Solomon says blood percentage alone does not define one’s culture.

“Just talking about my koro, Tommy, you know actually he grew up more Māori. He was full Moriori but culturally he was probably more Māori because Moriori culture had been almost obliterated by the time he was born in 1884. But he was extremely proud of being Moriori and my father, Charles Te Teira, who was his eldest son. He always told us to be proud of being Moriori.”

Puzzled by Peters’ turnaround

Solomon says he has had many interactions and conversations with the deputy prime minister over the years on various topics, so much so that Peters has also visited the Moriori marae on Chatham Island. Solomon says he is left puzzled.

“I’ve actually had meetings with Winston going back to the 1980s about our fisheries and various things like that. I guess I’m a little bit intrigued as to why he appears to be consigning Moriori to history when we’re still here.”

Earlier in his address Peters mentioned the peaceful nature of the Moriori people but his comments have still left a sour taste for Hammond.

“As a Moriori I don’t feel enraged but I do think, wow Winston, what a dumb thing to say.

“I hope we all can feel comfortable in our own skin, to feel safe, and content with ourselves,” he says.