Rekohu-Wharekauri History


The last major Pacific Islands to be settled, the Chatham Islands are thought to have been first occupied by Polynesians about 800 to 1000 years ago. In isolation they developed a unique culture and became a people who call themselves Moriori. They named their island home Rekohu, and developed a sacred covenant of peace, which has remained unbroken for 600 years - a world record for peace keeping!

The Chatham Islands were discovered by Europeans in 1791 by the English ship HMS Chatham. European settlement dates from the early 1800’s with sealers, then whalers and farmers. 

Later Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga arrived, and made their home on these islands they called Wharekauri. Merging their heritage and living together on this remote outpost; these people are the Chatham Islanders.

There are many sites of historic interest which can be visited with a guide:


  • Moriori settlement sites
  • Significant examples of Moriori tree and rock carvings (dendroglyphs and petroglyphs)
  • Memorial to Tommy Solomon, the last known full blooded Moriori
  • Early European settlement by German missionaries and English pastoralists
  • Remnants of whaling and sealing stations
  • Sites of early Maori settlement.
  • Places of historic and cultural importance can only be accessed with an approved guide.

Recommended reading
  • Discover the Chatham Islands: First to see the sun by Cherry Lawrie and Jocelyn Powell (Australia). ISBN: 097509919-1
  • Chatham Islands: Heritage and Conservation, edited by Colin Miskelly (Canterbury University Press). ISBN 9781877257780
  • Moriori: A people rediscovered (1989) by Michael King.  Auckland
  • The Feathers of Peace (video recording). Producer, Ruth Kaupua; writer and director, Barry Barclay.  Auckland: He Taonga Films, 2000.

Chatham Islands Directory

Download a Visitor Guide

Chatham Islands Events





  Chatham Islands 9th Annual Festival

Saturday 04 March 2017

The festival showcases the Chatham Island culture, arts, food and music with many family activities such as speed shearing, bread baking, cake decorating, best tasting local honey, creative arts competitions, at least 20 food & art stalls and charity auction.  The Chatham Islands is a great place with great people who have a real flare for fun and hospitality.



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