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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Muru-paenga’s First Expedition, 1810

Muru-paenga’s First Expedition, 1810.

The earliest record of any of these northern expeditions along the West Coast—I exclude those from Waikato or adjacent parts—that I am aware of, relates to two Ngati-Whatua raids on Taranaki, under the leadership of their great warrior, Muru-paenga, already referred to as their leader in the battle of Moremo-nui. From knowing the age of Muru-paenga in 1820, when Marsden met him, and from other circumstances, I am inclined to place these events about 1810 and 1817.

The expedition came down the coast, but whether the members of it were treated as page 62 enemies or friends in the northern part of the district is not known. We first hear of it at Manu-korihi pa, on the north bank of Waitara, ten miles north of New Plymouth, where the hapu of the same name lives, and who were related to the Ngati-Rongo hapu of Ngati-Whatua, through Te Raraku of that tribe. Consequently the party were welcomed by the local people and stayed there some time. Muru-paenga himself was also connected with Ngati-Rongo, and so we may suppose was all the more welcome. From Manu-korihi the party continued their journey into the territories of the Taranaki tribe, where, says Mr. Skinner, “Muru-paenga was so delighted with the country and its fertility, its stores of food, the beauty and variety of the flax growing so luxuriantly in all parts, the quality of the mats, or kaitaka cloaks—the finest and best in all New Zealand it is said, that he broke forth into a song and composed a waiata, which is still sung by the people of Taranaki, in which he chanted the praises of the land he had come to desolate.” It is said that Tatara-i-maka pa, twelve miles south of New Plymouth, was attacked in this expedition; it may be so, but probably his doings in his second foray have been confused with this. But beyond this, no details have come down—unless, indeed, some of the incidents to be described in the next raid really belong to that of Muru-paenga’s. The northern invaders, in this raid, had no guns, but were armed with their Maori weapons.

page 63

It was this expedition that gave rise to the following song:—

Na Muru-paenga ra, tana kawenga mai,
I kite ai an i nga moana nei,
Kowai ka matau ki to tau e awhi ai.
Tera ano ia nga mahi i ako ai,
Kei nga hurihanga ki Okehu ra-i-a.

Thro’ Muru’ was I hither brought,
And then first saw these seas so strange,
Who knows if some other lover
Within thine arms has been embraced?
Yonder my affections are bestowed
At the bends and turns at Okehu.

The above was composed and sung by a young woman of good birth, who had been taken prisoner by Muru-paenga’s party and carried to the north. She had left behind at Tarakihi, near Warea, her lover Puia-tu-awa; but was solicited to become the wife of one of the taua —hence her song.