The Chatham Islands form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean about 680 kilometres (420 mi) southeast of mainland New Zealand. It consists of about ten islands within a 40-kilometre (25 mi) radius, the largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.
The archipelago is called Rekohu ("misty sun") in the indigenous language Moriori, and Wharekauri in Māori. It has officially been part of New Zealand since 1842, and includes the country's easternmost point, the Forty-Fours.
The first human habitation of the Chathams was by migrating Polynesian tribes who settled the islands about 1500 CE, and in their isolation became the Moriori. The belief as to their origins was overturned late in the 20th century. The former belief, which arose in the 1800s, was that the original Moriori migrated directly from more northerly Polynesian islands, just as with the settlement of New Zealand by the ancestors of the Māori. However, linguistic research indicates instead that the ancestral Moriori were Māori wanderers from New Zealand. As Howe (2003) puts it,
The name "Chatham Islands" comes from the ship HMS Chatham of the Vancouver Expedition, whose captain William R. Broughton landed on 29 November 1791, claimed possession for Great Britain and named the islands after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham. A relative of his, Thomas Pitt, was a member of the Vancouver Expedition. Sealers and whalers soon started hunting in the surrounding ocean with the islands as their base. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the indigenous Moriori soon died from diseases introduced by foreigners. The sealing and whaling industries ceased activities about 1861, while fishing remained as a major economic activity..Chatham Islands date their anniversary on 29 November, and observe it 30 November.
Three schools are located on the Chathams, at Kaingaroa, Te One, and Pitt Island. Pitt Island and Kaingaroa are staffed by sole charge principals, while Te One has three teachers and a principal. These schools cater for children from year 1 to 8. No secondary school is present on the Chathams. The majority of secondary school-aged students leave the island for boarding schools in mainland New Zealand. A small number remain on the island and carry out their secondary education through correspondence.
Chatham and Pitt Islands are inhabited, with 600 residents in the 2013 Census. The town of Waitangi is the main settlement with some 200 residents. There are other villages such as Owenga, Te One and Kaingaroa, where there are two primary schools. A third school is on Pitt Island. There are also the fishing villages of Owenga and Port Hutt. The population is mainly of European, Māori and Moriori background; 59% said they identified as Māori (which includes Moriori), and around 77% identified as European or New Zealander.
Waitangi facilities include a hospital with resident doctor, bank, several stores, and engineering and marine services. The main shipping wharf is located here.