The indigenous people of the Chatham Islands, over 800 kilometres (500 mi) east of southern New Zealand. Widely believed to be a Melanesian pre-Maori race, eventually becoming conquered and slaughtered by Polynesians (Maori). Who subsequently fled from the mainland (New Zealand) and found refuge on the Chatham Islands (Rekohu).
The Moriori pre-Maori myth was constructed by Elsdon Best and Stephenson Percy Smith. Through a selection of Maori tales and history, partnered with their own theories of Maori origin. This belief became popularized in the early 20th century and persisted in the education system until at least the 1970s. But continues to stay in the public mind. Which placed an advantage- from a European settler view- justifying the disenfranchisement of Maori.
'Notably, the concept also undermines notions of the Māori as the indigenous people of New Zealand, by portraying them as conquerors.'
Historians, Anthropologists and Ethnologists have debunked the theory since the 1920's. Academics agree that the Moriori share the same Polynesian ancestry as Maori people. Also sharing similarities in their language and customs. Indicating that Moriori came to the Chatham Islands from New Zealand about 1500. Through their isolation developed a strong pacifist society; the Nukunuku law.
Anthropologist H.D. Skinner in 1923,20 ethnologist Roger Duff in the 1940s,21 and historian and ethnographer Arthur Thomson in 1959,22 as did Michael King's Moriori: A People Rediscovered in 2000 and James Belich23 and K.R. Howe in Te Ara.21