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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Death of Muru-paenga, 1826

Death of Muru-paenga, 1826.

I cannot fix the exact date of the death of Muru-paenga, the celebrated chief of the Ngati-Rongo section of Ngati-Whatua, but as he was at the battle of Te Ika-a-ranga-nui, and was dead some time, according to D’Urville writing early in 1827, his death probably occurred after the Taou and others returned to the bush near Mahu-rangi, which event took place at the end of 1825 or early in 1826.

It appears that a war-party of the Hikutu, sub-tribe of Nga-Puhi, living at Whirinaki, Hokianga, came down the east coast secretly, keeping close in shore to avoid being seen: haumiri haere mai, says my informant, the Rev. Hauraki Paora. Arrived at Mahurangi, they discovered Muru-paenga and a small party of his people living there, and attacked them by surprise near Maunga-tauhoro, and succeeded in killing him. The main body of the people were away up the Puhoi river, where they dwelt. The next morning, when they came down the river, they found poor Murupaenga’s dead body afloat on the sea, and the perpetrators of the deed had fled. We may imagine, but do not know what consternation there would be amongst the ranks of his tribesmen at the loss of such a great warrior, who had lead them to victory over and over again, and who had played such an important part in page 382 many of the stirring incidents of the early years of this century. His renown was great, and Dumont D’Urville tells us that he had at one time contemplated writing the life of this hero as a centre round which to arrange all that he had acquired of Maori manners, customs, and beliefs. D’Urville did not live to accomplish his expressed intention—he was killed in a railway accident in 1841. A personal description of this excellent specimen of the Maori chief has been given in the account of his meeting with Marsden in 1820. Murupaenga is buried at Mihirau, an old burial ground on the Puhoi river, just opposite the present German settlement. He resided principally at Kaipara, at Araparera, Makarau, &c. Many of his relatives still live there and at Puhoi.

Mr. C. F. Maxwell heard from Nga-Puhi a different account of Muru-paenga’s death, which is to the effect that he “escaped from the battle of Te Ika-a-ranga-nui, but was killed by a small party of the Hikutu, of Hokianga, under the leadership of a relative of Te Wharepoaka’s, at Mangawhai, a few days after the battle. This man took the name of Murupaenga, and was ever afterwards known by it. He was proceeding through the forest and accidently surprised the fugitives. Neither he nor his party had taken part in the fight at Te Ika-a-ranga-nui.”

Here then, in the same year, died by violence two of the great leaders that occupy a large page 383 space in the preceding pages. Pomare is much better known on the east coast than Hongi Hika; indeed the number of expeditions he led against the southern tribes far exceeds those under Hongi-Hika. Moreover, Pomare was evidently a man with some sense of honour: witness his conduct at the fall of Te Totara in December, 1821, and at Te Wairoa in 1824. He adopted his name after hearing of Pomare of Tahiti. Polack says, that Pomare’s son, in 1833, went to Waikato and brought back, to their home at the Bay, Pomare’s bones.

Of Muru-paenga, the Ngati-Whatua tribe retained more detail of his many battles than of any other of their chiefs, and looked on him as their greatest leader. Fifty years ago it would have been comparatively easy to have written his life fully, but alas! I neglected to write down the many interesting stories of him that were told me by the old people of those days. Muru-paenga was the one chief of Ngati-Whatua who for many years successfully opposed Nga-Puhi.