The Moriori are a people indigenous to the Chatham Islands. They developed their own primitive culture and lived by a strong pacific code. Their ethical policy of non-violence rendered them vulnerable to the brutal assaults visited upon them by the Māori, their lighter skinned neighbours. These unneighbourly visits are documented, with as much accuracy as can be historically determined, in the next few pages of the novel. Mitchell's interest in the Moriori was sparked by a reading of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, and a visit to the Chatham Islands led to a discovery of A Land Apart by the New Zealand historian Michael King. This book helped plant some of the imaginative seeds of the novel in Mitchell's mind.