One of New Zealand's most stigmatised and marginalised tribes, the Moriori, are a step closer to justice after completing negotiations with the Crown.
A gathering of the native inhabitants of Rēkohu (Chatham Island) assembled at Parliament today to initial a deed of settlement which included a Crown apology for its actions that had contributed to the tribe being "virtually landless".
The redress included a Crown apology, agreed historical account and cultural and commercial redress for historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1842.
The settlement package included $18 million in financial redress and the transfer of sites of significance to Moriori as cultural redress.
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little said the package would provide groundwork for the cultural, social and economic future of Moriori.
"I acknowledge this can never fully compensate for the loss and prejudice suffered, but it acknowledges the nature and extent of your loss, and provides a platform from which the resurgence of Moriori identity and culture can continue."
Little said those working on negotiations, that began in 2003, had exhibited "perseverance, courage and compromise".
He especially acknowledged Hokotehi Moriori Trust chair Maui Solomon, who had also fought for Moriori recognition in the Fisheries Settlement, and lodged claims in the Waitangi Tribunal.
"I am humbled to be standing before you here today and have the honour of initialling this deed, on behalf of the Crown. It marks the beginning of a new Treaty relationship between the Crown and Moriori, that benefits you and indeed all New Zealanders."
Solomon said it had been a long wait for justice for Moriori.
Moriori had lived on the islands for 800 years or more and originally had a population estimated to be more than 2500 people.
But by 1862 the population had plummeted to about 120 surviving individuals, following colonisation by both Pākehā from 1791, and Taranaki iwi Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga in 1835, which enslaved the peaceful Moriori.
In 1870, the Native Land Court awarded over 97 per cent of land to Ngāti Mutunga, based on its "conquest", leaving Moriori with small reserves.
Moriori never accepted this "conquest" as they had upheld their law of peace, but this was ignored by the Native Land Court.
In the deed the Crown acknowledged it had failed its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi to protect Moriori, despite their pleas for help, and that they had been left "virtually landless" since 1870, hindering their "cultural, social, and economic development".
It also acknowledged how it helped stigmatise Moriori as a racially inferior people who became extinct through school books it disseminated.
The imi (tribe) would now take the deed to its people for consultation and, if ratified, be formally signed at Kōpinga Marae on Rēkohu before a bill was introduced into Parliament later this year or early next year.
Waitangi Tribunal records show there were at least 7000 to 8000 people of Moriori descent worldwide, and 800 registered Hokotehi Moriori marae members.