Key Points:

One of the best views on the Chatham Islands is from Kopinga Marae. The building is designed to resemble an albatross with outstretched wings, and the central pentagon-shaped meeting room, Hokomenetai, looks southeast, across the purplish Te Whanga lagoon to the sea.

But it is more than a good view. It is also the site of a historic move towards Moriori renaissance. At the building's 2004 opening, the Moriori renewed their historic covenant of peace, attributed to ancestor Nunuku-whenua. The covenant, unique among Maori, banned warfare and cannibalism, introducing ritualistic fighting and conciliation, in which fighting ceases when the first blood is drawn. It originated some time after the Moriori settled the islands about 700 years ago, a pragmatic response, perhaps, to the isolation.

The renewal marked the end of bitter infighting over the method for proving Moriori descent - and therefore entitlement to fishing assets and the imminent Treaty settlement - that had riven the iwi in the recent past. In 2002, two main camps had consolidated into the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, and three years later the trust received Moriori's $15 million share of fisheries assets.

Those assets, supplemented by extra quota the trust bought, are now worth $25 million.

Legal wrangling with Ngati Mutunga over many issues consumed most of the previous two decades, diverting iwi money to lawyers. Ngati Mutunga arrived in the Chathams in 1835, and, like colonists throughout history, set about laying claim to the land by massacring, cannibalising and enslaving the Moriori.

The Crown outlawed slavery some 30 years later, by which stage the Moriori population had fallen from 1600 to about 100.

In 2001, the Waitangi Tribunal found that the Crown should pay Moriori compensation for the slavery they suffered during the mid-1800s, and officially acknowledged Moriori as the true tangata whenua - or tchakat henu in Moriori dialect - of the Chathams. Now Moriori are talking about a cultural renaissance: learning the iwi's distinct dialect, reviving the old songs. Some 500 people are registered as having Moriori ancestry, of whom 65 adults live on Rekohu, the Moriori name for the Chathams (Tommy Solomon, believed to be the last Moriori of unmixed ancestry, died in 1933).

"We've got to clean up the mess and leave something behind to be proud of,"says Shannon Ataera.

Ataera, 36, has three children and is a local legend, after fighting health authorities for a midwife to be sent over so she could give birth to her third child in Rekohu. Giving birth on the island is discouraged in case of complications, but Ataera's first two births were quick and simple. Baby Hawaikii Rekohu, born in the Chatham Islands Hospital in July, arrived in perfect health after a 10-minute labour.

The trust hopes to complete the next step, an agreement in principle about the settlement, by mid-2008.

Meanwhile, Ngati Mutunga are growing their $13m fisheries settlement and are working towards a Treaty claim.

Both iwi say relations between them have improved.

At least some islanders can laugh about the past now. There's a mock-up of a newspaper clipping on a Waitangi fish 'n chip shop wall, among notices for licence renewals and sports tournaments, saying a Maori activist has claimed rights to all pies for Maori. "According to [him]," the article claims, "it was the Maori who first invented pies as a means to tastefully dispose of the Moriori and pie was considered a taonga."