Sykes was the tamaiti whangai of her maternal grandparents from birth until she was seven, when she returned to her parents (Maori mother and white father).
She did well in school and had just started at Cambridge University in England when she was advised to return to New Zealand by a prominent Maori, John Rangihau, to rediscover her Maori identity and learn the language.
She became involved in agitation for Maori language and land rights, gaining a reputation among whites as a seditious, trouble-making radical. Her arrest during a demonstration at National Party offices led her to study law, and in 1985 she was admitted to the New Zealand bar, the first person of her extended family or whanau to qualify as a lawyer.
She is one of only a few Maori women to be a full partner in a law firm. Her practice was initially in criminal law, but she now concentrates on commercial law and Waitangi Tribunal claims for the return of lands illegally confiscated or stolen from the Maori in the 19th century. She has been approached by at least three political parties (Mana Maori, Alliance and Labour) to stand for Parliament, but has so far refused to become involved in party politics.
To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.