Also known as: Tchakat Henu

The Moriori are the indigenous people (Tchakat Henu) of the Chatham Islands. Because of their harsh and isolated environment, in which agriculture was not possible, the Moriori developed a culture-based on hunting and gathering. Their society was egalitarian and peaceful, traits that are rare in most Polynesian cultures. Lethal violence was subject to a religious prohibition, and rarely or never occurred. In 1835 the Chatham Islands were conquered by Maori from mainland New Zealand. As a result of their harsh treatment at the hands of the invaders, the Moriori suffered catastrophic demographic and cultural decline. Today, around 1000 New Zealanders claim Moriori descent, but little remains of Moriori culture.

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Traditional Culture(1810-1835)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
King (1989), pp. 33
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 14-15, 185, 187
King (1989), pp. 35
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 14
Skinner (1923), pp. 55

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 185

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 187
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 184
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 18
Primordial pair Present, and genealogically linked to humans now living (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 16-17, 18
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 18-25, 191-206

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
King (1989), pp. 211

Classes of Tapu

Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 84
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 12


Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blevins (2008)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blevins (2008)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 3
King (1989), pp. 50
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 14
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 12


Piercing Absent from culture (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 2-3
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 2-3
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 2-3
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 2
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Shand (1911), pp. 2-3
Social Environment +
Population 2000 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 31
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 31
Sutton (1980), pp. 85


Conflict within communities Moderate (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 84
Shand (1911), pp. 3
Conflict between communities of the culture Rare or never (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 84-85
Shand (1911), pp. 3
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
King (1989), pp. 48-52
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
King (1989), pp. 48-51
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 651.3 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 17
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 9232.2 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 17
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
King (1989), pp. 48-51, 57
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Absent (Source)
King (1989)
Agriculture / Horticulture Minor (Source)
King (1989), pp. 24, 30-31, 48, 56
Sutton (1980), pp. 83
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80, 83
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Absent (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80
King (1989), pp. 24

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80
King (1989), pp. 24, 56
Shand (1911), pp. 5-6
Water-based gathering Major (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80
King (1989), pp. 25
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 80
King (1989), pp. 24
Shand (1911), pp. 5

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Medium (Source)
Sutton (1980), pp. 85
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Two (Source)
King (1989), pp. 31

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -43.8 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 17, 35
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude -176.5 (Source)
King (1989), pp. 17, 35
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chatham Islands) (2014)
Island Size (km²) 900.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chatham Islands) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 287.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chatham Islands) (2014)
Post Contact History(1835-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
King (1989), pp. 73
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
King (1989), pp. 73
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
King (1989), pp. 73
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
King (1989), pp. 73, 105-106

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
King (1989), pp. 39-193
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
King (1989), pp. 66
Wiltshier & Cardow (2008), pp. 266
Immigration High (Source)
King (1989), pp. 31, 49, 53-75, 93-94, 135-186
Solomon & Thorpe (2007), pp. 251
Language shift High (Source)
King (1989), pp. 135, 156
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (New Zealand) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (New Zealand) (2014)
King (1989), pp. 109

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
King (1989), pp. 123
Dana (2003)
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
King (1989), pp. 89-93, 109, 123, 167-168, 178-179

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Wiltshier & Cardow (2008), pp. 266
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Dana (2003), pp. 17-19
Sea port Present (Source)
Dana (2003), pp. 15

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
King (1989), pp. 53-75, 64-65
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
King (1989), pp. 53-75, 66
External Links
Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Central Intelligence Agency (New Zealand). (2014). The World Factbook: New Zealand. Retrieved from

Clark, R. (1996). Moriori: language death (New Zealand). Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, 3, 173.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Dana, L.P. (2003). The Challenge of Exporting Fresh Food from the Chatham Islands to Markets Overseas. British Food Journal, 105 (1-2), 9-22. DOI: 10.1108/00070700310467465.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chatham Islands) (2014). "Chatham Islands". Retrieved from

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Moriori). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Encyclopaedia Britannica (New Zealand). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156,

King, M. (2000). Moriori: A People Rediscovered. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books. (Originally Published 1989)

Shand, A. (1911). The Moriori People of the Chatham Islands: Their History and Traditions. Wellington, New Zealand: Polynesian Society of New Zealand.

Skinner, H.D. (1923). The Morioris of the Chatham Islands. Honolulu, HA: Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

Solomon, M. & Thorpe, S. (2012). Taonga Moriori: Recording and Revival. Journal of Material Culture, 17, 245-263. DOI: 10.1177/1359183512453533

Sutton, D.G. (1980). "Culture History of the Chatham Islands." The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 89 (1), 67-93.

Wiltshier, P. & Carlow, A. (2008). Tourism, Indigenous Peoples and Endogeneity in the Chatham Islands. Journal of Enterprising Communities, 2 (3), 265-274. DOI: 10.1108/17506200810902702