By Chris Daniels

Maoridom is mourning the death of one its strongest and most controversial women.

Hana Te Hemara, formerly Hana Jackson, died at the weekend after a long illness and is now lying in state at her home marae at Waitara.

At the vanguard of a new wave of Maori activism in the 1960s, Hana Te Hemara rallied support for a Maori language revival. She was a driving force behind the establishment of kohanga reo language nests and helped gain official status for Maori language.


She achieved notoriety in 1988 when she was reported to have told Auckland University students to "kill a white and become a hero".

Her comments prompted complaints to the Race Relations conciliator, who decided the comments were antagonistic, but said in a private place - a marae.

Hana Te Hemara said her comments were taken out of context, and that she had been making a prediction about what could happen if conditions for Maori did not improve.

Maori Affairs Minister Tau Henare last night paid tribute to Hana Te Hemara, applauding her campaign in the 1970s to have Maori recognised as an official language.

He said the Maori Language Commission was developed as a direct result of her work.

"Back in the late 60's and early 70's, people who pushed for the status of the Maori language were considered activists, some, like Hana were arrested for their views in 1969."

"Hana symbolised the strength of Maori women in this country."

Hana was aged 59 and died after a long illness. She is survived by two children.