Missionaries of the French-based Society of Mary (Marists) arrived in the Pacific in the late 1830s. Reports by European travellers and missionaries had told the first Marists to expect Pacific peoples who were either cannibals or noble savages. Their encounter with recently-converted Mangarevans in the Gambier Islands led them to believe that idyllic Christian societies could be created in the South Pacific. This belief influenced the first Marists' descriptions of Pacific peoples, notably New Zealand Maori. The Marists consequently emphasised the noble savage trope and downplayed cannibalism. They also displayed a relatively tolerant attitude towards indigenous practices.