Maori Revolutionary Syd Jackson Dies

Maori activist Syd Jackson, who died yesterday, has been called "a true warrior" of Maori politics.

Jackson, uncle of broadcaster and former MP Willie Jackson, died at his Mangere Bridge home three years after doctors told him he had cancer. He was 68.

Willie Jackson said his illness epitomised a decades-long struggle to improve the lot of Maori.

"He was a fighter, it sort of typified his life, I suppose," he said last night.

"For many of us he was a mentor, a leader and an absolute role model. He was absolutely fixed on getting equity for Maori and that's the way he lived his life."

Mr Jackson rose to prominence in the early 1970s as the young, fiery and articulate leader of Nga Tamatoa.

In 1971 the group shocked the country and ushered in an era of Maori activism with its inaugural protest at the Waitangi Day commemorations.

As secretary of the Northern Clerical Workers Union, Mr Jackson was instrumental in transforming the mainly white women's union into a militant force.

His nephew and a young Tau Henare had their first introduction into politics via that union.

In the 1980s he raised eyebrows with a trip to Libya - then an international pariah - facing down cries by some politicians for him to be tried for treason.

" They tried to accuse him of bringing guns to New Zealand. He never did any of that rubbish. He certainly woke this country up, he was certainly the most unpopular person at one time.

"People didn't understand what he was talking about. All he was talking about was Treaty rights and equal rights for Maori."

The tangi will be at Matahiwi Marae in Hastings late this week.

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