Genocide (New Zealand) #1

So, what you probably didn’t realize was that genocide is nothing new. All right, you’re probably smart enough to realize that; I take it back. What is new about genocide is the massive scale that modern times allow.

Anyway, what you probably also didn’t know is that genocide is not a uniquely Western thing. Yes, the Westerners have definitely been the most famous and proficient in it, but allow me to take you to a small corner of the world where genocide once took place: New Zealand.

You’re probably scratching your head right now, I know. New Zealand’s the one famed for not wiping out the native population. But this isn’t a story of modern New Zealand, or colonial New Zealand; this is before the Westerners came.

There’s this place called the Chatham Islands, just off of New Zealand. A long time ago (hundreds of years, in fact), a group of people (who may have been Maori themselves) left the main New Zealand Islands, and settled on these islands. They also intermarried with the people already living there. They became the Moriori.

Now, these people were fairly unique: they lived by a law of peace, called Nunuku’s Law. And, since they were fairly cut off from other groups, this worked out well for a while. Whaling and fishing ships used this area for their livelihoods, and mostly ignored the Moriori (and their rules about not hunting in breeding areas).

Come 1835, however, the law of peace was about to be put to the test.

Maori from New Zealand, who had been pushed South, decided to invade and take the Chatham Islands for themselves.

When the invasion happened, the Moriori didn’t fight back. They stayed pacifistic, and despite outnumbering the invaders two to one, were quickly killed and enslaved.

They came very close to becoming extinct altogether, until the New Zealand government intervened 28 years later (see, by then the colony had been established). Nowadays, there are no ‘full-blooded’ Moriori, but there is still a Moriori culture and presence. They are recognized as the indigenous people of the Chatham Islands.