Polynesian Panthers founding member Miriama Rauhihi Ness farewelled after short cancer battle

Source: 1News

Miriama Rauhihi Ness (Ngāti Whakatere/Ngāti Taki Hiku), a founding member of the Polynesian Panthers, was farewelled this morning after a short battle with cancer.

By Mariner Fagaiava-Muller

As an 18-year-old she moved from the small town of Shannon, near Palmerston North to Ponsonby in Auckland, which at the time was home to a large Pasifika migrant population.

At the height of the Dawn Raids - a controversial police crackdown on Pasifika overstayers - she became the first wahine Māori to sit on the Polynesian Panthers’ executive committee.

Ness is accredited by fellow Panther Will ‘Ilolahia in mobilising the movement to tautoko the 1975 Māori Land March.

She later joined Ngā Tamatoa, where she helped lodge a petition to make Te Reo Māori an officially recognised language of New Zealand.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has paid tribute saying “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.”

Ness, who died on Monday, is survived by activist ex-husband Tigilau, daughter Miriam, son's Ephraim and Che - the music artist better known as Che Fu.

“Our hearts go out to our whānau and the multitude of Mum’s friends and supporters during this time,” Che says.

“We are all hurting emotionally, but are relieved in the fact that she is no longer in pain.”

Miriama Rauhihi Ness is being remembered by the Māori and Pasifika communities as a wahine toa who was able to break the glass ceiling in her fight for justice. She was 69.