Moriori descendants seek Treaty claim for 19th Century atrocities

Moriori are in line for a Treaty settlement which will recognise a dark past of slavery and land loss.

The Government is making the settlement a priority to recognise a history of slavery and land loss. Source: 1 NEWS

At the only marae on the Chatham Islands a glimpse can be found of a culture widely and wrongly thought to be extinct.

"I think the most common things New Zealanders believe is that they were by and large wiped out before pakeha settlement," Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson told ONE News.

Maui Solomon is a grandson of Tommy Solomon, thought the be the last full-blooded Moriori.

The islands were invaded by Taranaki Maori in 1835, who slaughtered and enslaved the Moriori. The atrocities continued for 20 years.

"We lost 90 per cent of our population - that's a holocaust really," Mr Solomon said.

Now, Moriori descendants are close to negotiating a Treaty settlement with the Crown, based on breaches including a failure to stop slavery.

Further grievances include when 120 Moriori left the Chatham Islands in 1870 and were granted just three per cent of the land.

Moriori did petition the government to restore land rights 150 years ago, but were unsuccessful.

"We're looking forward to getting a just and fair settlement," Mr Solomon said.

Despite the Chatham Islands invasion pre-dating the Treaty of Waitangi, the Government concedes the Crown had a responsibility to act sooner.

Historian Dr Michael Bassett said there is also a more obvious reason the Crown should pay.

"I'm sure the real reason why people want the Crown to do something is that they've got the deepest pockets," he said.

The Crown-owned Whaanga Lagoon is likely to return under the settlement, while the Government hopes to have an initial deal completed by the end of this year.

"The way forward for this island is the people living together in peace and sharing but you can't have peace without justice," Mr Solomon said.