Māori and Pasifika activists are mourning Ngā Tamatoa and Polynesian Panther heroine Miriama Rauhihi-Ness, who died suddenly from cancer on March 15.
The Ngāti Whakatere and Ngāti Taki Hiku descendant was instrumental in the mobilisation of the Polynesian Panthers as well as the 1975 Land March which was led by Dame Whina Cooper.
She was also the former wife of musician Tigilau Ness and mother of singer Che Fu.
Polynesian Panthers' Will Ilolahia says it was through Rauhihi-Ness that the Panthers became involved in supporting the 1975 Māori Land March.
She was prominent in some of NZ's most iconic protests, including Bastion Pt, and was a marshal during the Springbok Tour protests of 1981.
She joined Ngā Tamatoa, the Māori activist group which petitioned to have te reo Māori recognised as an official language.
This went on to receive 30,000 signatures and was then delivered to Parliament in 1972. More than a decade later, the long fight paid off as te reo Māori finally became an official language in Aotearoa in 1987.
Originally from Shannon, Rauhihi-Ness arrived in Ponsonby in central Auckland in the 70s where it was once filled with Polynesians.
She was well known for bringing the Pacific and Māori community together to stand up for the rights of Māori, and was first noticed by the Panthers after she took action to protect Pasifika people who weren't getting paid for work.
She became the first paid community worker for the Polynesian Panthers.
Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson says Rauhihi-Ness "epitomised the meaning of wāhine toa and never wavered in her pursuit of justice for Māori".
"Miriama got an early taste of the injustice Māori faced during her schooling. When her name was changed from Miriama to Miriam, because she was made to feel embarrassed to be Māori.
"Miriama was told there was nothing good about being Māori and remembered Māori being portrayed unfavourably on television.
"Standing up and fighting for those who were being taken advantage of gave Miriama pride in her culture and set her on the path to fight for the rights of Māori."
Rauhihi-Ness was held in high regard in the Pacific Island community, Te Ao Māori, and the Ponsonby community which she referred to as a thriving and pumping Polynesian suburb once upon a time.