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 Chatham Islands natives 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.
Hokotehi Moriori Trust chairman Maui Solomon said it had been a "long wait for justice".
"This closes a dark chapter in our - and the country's - history, and enables us to put some things to rest, and move forward."
Solomon said some of the most important elements of the deed of settlement were the agreed historical account, that "put to bed" myths and stigma long directed towards Moriori, and the Crown apology for promoting them.
Moriori were the original inhabitants of Rēkohu, Rangihaute, Hokorereoro and other nearby islands, making up the Chatham Islands.
They arrived between the years 1000 and 1400 and developed a non-violent tradition, known as Nunuku's law of peace.
Their population of more than 2500 people plummeted to 120 by 1862, following colonisation by both Pākehā from 1791, and Taranaki iwi Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga following their invasion in 1835, when they killed an estimated 300 Moriori and enslaved the survivors.
A myth ensued that the Moriori were racially inferior to Māori, promoted by the Crown through the New Zealand education system, and even that they became extinct.
"Generations of New Zealanders were told we were weak and inferior because we did not fight back," Solomon said.
"I don't see that as weak. It takes a superior moral consciousness to lay down your weapons, which we had done for over 500 years."
Solomon said he hoped the true history would now become better known.
"We have a proud record in New Zealand of international peacekeeping, of peaceful resistance at Parihaka, but who knows about the Moriori? This account sets the record straight, that we were a real people, with a sophisticated culture."
Solomon said it also put to bed the myth Moriori were driven out of New Zealand by Māori.
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little said the package would provide groundwork for the cultural, social and economic future of Moriori.
"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 Solomon, who had also fought for Moriori recognition in the Fisheries Settlement, and lodged claims in the Waitangi Tribunal.
"It marks the beginning of a new Treaty relationship between the Crown and Moriori, that benefits you and indeed all New Zealanders."
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".
Despite their history with Ngāti Mutunga, which is going through its own settlement process, Solomon said it was time to move forward.
"We have a very good relationship with those on the island. We have differences, but there is more that unites us going forward than looking back. It is time to put a ring around the past and move forward."
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 is introduced into Parliament later this year or early next year.
There were 872 adults and 860 children registered with Hokotehi Moriori Trust, but the imi estimated the true population to be at least several thousand.