The Polynesian Panther Party was an organisation founded by New Zealand born Polynesians on 16 June 1971. The party was explicitly influenced by the American Black Panther Party, particularly Huey Newton’s policy of black unity. They located the causes of Māori and Pacific Island oppression within the exploitative social relations of capitalism. Consequently, the Polynesian Panthers promoted a strategy of liberation based on the complete overthrow of the capitalist system and the social relations necessary for its development. The group greatly increased in profile during Robert Muldoon's immigration scare campaign in 1975, and the subsequent dawn raids under his administration.
The Polynesian Panther Movement was founded in inner city Auckland by six young Pacific Islander men; Fred Schmidt, Nooroa Teavae, Paul Dapp, Vaughan Sanft, Eddie Williams and Will 'Ilolahia. At the time many Pacific Island youth were supporters of Māori political initiatives such as the Bastion Point occupation and Waitangi Day protests, and gained skills in political lobbying and processes which they used to raise the profile of Pacific people in New Zealand. Because of the working-class background of its members the movement concerned itself with issues relating to unequal pay and unsatisfactory working conditions.
Headquarters were established in Ponsonby and the Polynesian Panthers began to organise activities, among them were homework centres for Pacific children, visiting Pacific prisoners as well as providing transport for their families to visit, and running programs educating Pacific Islanders on their rights as New Zealand citizens. Soon the movement expanded nationally with chapters in South Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, as well as a chapter in Sydney, Australia.
One of the notable early members of the Polynesian Panthers include Niuean composer, musician and activist Tigilau Ness, who was imprisoned during anti-apartheid protests in New Zealand aimed at stopping the controversial 1981 South Arican Springboks rugby tour. Ness is also the father of New Zealand hip hop artist Che Fu.
On 12 September 2009 the Polynesian Panthers held a special evening in Auckland to honour American Black Panther revolutionary artist Emory Douglas during his International Artist in Residency at Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts.
In 2010 a documentary film made by Nevak 'Ilolahia (daughter of Will 'Ilolahia), was released telling the story of the Polynesian Panthers. It was shown on Māori Television's New Zealand documentary slot. A Facebook page shares news and events related to the Polynesian Panthers and showings of the documentary.
- Polynesian Panthers Melani Anae, Lautofa Iuli and Leilani Burgoyne (eds.) Reed Publishing (NZ) ISBN 0-7900-1001-1
- "How the Polynesian Panthers changed our world" Salient (magazine), by Zoe Reid 31/05/10
- Bunting, Finbarr (June 13, 2010). "Polynesian Panthers make movie". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- Masters, Catherine (July 15, 2006). "Brown Power". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- "Polynesian Panthers mark 35 years". Television New Zealand. June 17, 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- "The Polynesian Panther Party documentary". paradiseishell.wordpress.com. October 3, 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-03-16. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- "Polynesian Panthers Part 1". YouTube. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Polynesian Panthers Documentary on Facebook Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- The Contemporary Evolution of Māori Protest (scroll down for the section on the Panthers)
- Black Panther Party International Support - Polynesian Panthers (PDF)