Chief of the Popoto tribe, Hokianga.
On 1 July 1819 Hokianga's first European tourists, the missionaries Kendall and King, arrived at “Moodinai's place” where they borrowed canoes for the journey down river. Later in the year Marsden, Puckey, and Kendall visited Hokianga and found Muriwai engaged in an altercation with his neighbour Matangi, whose kumara gardens had been ravaged by Muriwai's pigs. This affair settled, Muriwai conducted Marsden to Utakura, which was then his principal place of residence, and afterwards provided a canoe for the trip to the heads, he and his family accompanying the missionary sightseers.
During the absence in 1820 of the great Hokianga expedition to Cook Strait, Muriwai continued in the role of master of ceremonies to visiting Europeans. Early in March 1820 Marsden again visited Hokianga, this time with a party from HMS Dromedary. Muriwai's younger brother, Te Taonui, accompanied the visitors back to the Bay of Islands and Muriwai himself was conveniently on hand at the Hokianga Heads when the storeship's tender, Prince Regent, crossed the bar at the end of March, the first known European vessel to do so. To the relief of the schooner's crew Muriwai tapu-ed the vessel, thus ensuring that no one would go aboard without permission.
The Providence, Captain Herd, with Kendall on board, visited Hokianga in 1822, and in August a deed was drawn up purporting to transfer 40,000 acres from Muriwai, Patuone, and Nene to Baron de Thierry for the consideration of 36 axes. When Thierry arrived in 1837 to claim his kingdom the sale was denied by Patuone and Nene and by Muriwai's widow. Only a few axes had reached them and these had been regarded as presents.
In November 1826 Muriwai was one of the sellers of the Horeke to Captains Deloitte and Stewart (after whom Stewart Island is named), who were acting for a Sydney firm. The following month he renewed his acquaintance with Herd, who arrived in the river in command of the first New Zealand Company's vessels, Rosanna and Lambton. Muriwai's mana apparently impressed Herd, whose chart of the Hokianga shows Motukaraka as “Moodewy's place” and Onoke as “Moodewy's Point”.
The establishment of the Wesleyan missionary station at Mangungu in January 1828 presented the ageing Popoto chief with a fresh diversion, and it is recorded that he “always treated the arrangements for religious services with great levity, and seemed only amused when the subjects of death and eternity were discussed”. He was unable to enjoy this new form of entertainment for long, being mortally wounded in the skirmish at Waima in March 1828 when Te Whareumu was killed. Nine hundred fighting men attended Muriwai's funeral ceremonies, at which the old chief's body was placed in a sitting position, with his weapons on one side and the body of his youngest wife, who had strangled herself, on the other.
With his death Popoto leadership passed to Te Taonui, who shared Muriwai's insouciant attitude to European religion and also his rather expansive views on how widely Popoto writ should run in the Hokianga.
by Ruth Miriam Ross, School Teacher and Authoress, North Auckland.
- Marsden's Lieutenants, Elder, J. R. (1934)
- Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden, Elder, J. R. (1932)
- Journal of a Ten Months' Residence in New Zealand, 1820, Cruise, R. A. (1957)
- History of Methodism in New Zealand, Morley, W. (1900).