Yesterday we arrived on the main island in the Chathams, Rekohu, which literally means the ‘Sun through the mist’. The base team together with another 30 or so invited guests were met by the grandson of the last supposedly “pure” Moriori, our host, a great guy called Maui Solomon and his lovely wife Susan at Wellington airport. From there we took a flight in a rusty old charter plane to the island for the Blessing Ceremony and Renewal of the Peace Covenant, a traditional ceremony carried out on the Island for centuries. The Chatham Islands are so symbolic of our March because the Moriori people who lived here had eradicated violence as a means of resolving disputes, or at least eradicated murder. Conflict resolution (when no other method was possible) was done with a form of battle in which 2 opponents fought with fighting sticks, but the first person to bleed was the loser. It was not necessary to kill. This was the custom for centuries until the British brought a boat load of Maori people from New Zealand towards the end of the 18th century. The Maori (having no such problem with murder) then massacred virtually the entire population of the island, leaving only a few to survive as slaves. The youth of the Moriori wanted to renounce the Covenant and fight the Maori to the death, but the elders overruled the younger ones, leaving the Moriori with their principles of nonviolence and their integrity in tact, but their bodies destroyed. I’m sure this is what Gandhi would have advocated. Sadly, the Moriori were a people ahead of their time.
The theme of the day was one of ceremony. The Moriori elders greeted us with a traditional ceremony, and after the greetings the visitors had the opportunity to offer gifts at the altar to the ancestors. This was a very moving moment in which thoughtful gifts connected to peace and nonviolence were offered; a portrait of Gandhi, a print of Picasso’s Guernica, a World March flag, a copy of the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, and others. Graeme sang his version of the Marseilles with the new words, and others recited poems. All very lovely and moving.
At night we were guests at a superb feast! Never have I seen such large lobsters. Truly these creatures were once monsters of the deep. :-) Locally farmed lamb was also on offer with a selection of salads and vegetables.
The night was spent in the Marae which is were the previous ceremonies had been held, but this was like a first-class super Marae. However, it was still basically 50 people in one room sleeping on mattresses on the floor…
This morning, some of us got up at 5:00am to take part in another blessing ceremony at sunrise. However, Rekohu more than lived up to it’s name as “Sun through the Mist”, because we had much more mist than sun. However, we felt invigorated as we came back inside and then dived into a fantastic English breakfast: sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs. Honestly, I’m not going hungry on this March…
To finish the news of the day, and before I go to work on more translations and speech writing, we had some very disturbing news of a Tsunami on its way to the island. You may have seen on the news that 14 people have died in Samoa following an earthquake. A tsunami warning was issued and we all got very nervous as the spiritual guide of the Moriori started chanting a prayer. However, the gods of the Moriori are with us and we have not been disturbed in our Mission.
With a big hug to all,
P.S. Maui has asked me to point out that the plane wasn’t so rusty after all! It was in fact very shiny, but it did look like it was held together with string and tape :-)