It wasn't until Covid-19 claimed the life of a beloved kuia that proud wahine Anna Berry realised vaccination is the only way Māori can reclaim tikanga which the virus has stripped away.
Now, the Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi school kaiako (teacher) is adding her voice to the pro-vaccination message, as the West Auckland kura pulls out all the stops to bring the vaccine to the front doors of her whānau.
Anna, a mother to three daughters, admitted she was firmly against receiving the Covid vaccine initially.
"I was quite adamant that I wasn't because I don't like needles basically," she said.
She remained steadfast even as her whānau, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, were getting vaccinated.
It wasn't until a kōrero about the vaccine's benefits with former kura student and South Auckland GP Dr Lily Fraser that finally convinced Anna to book her first jab.
"Lily had a talk to me and took me through the benefits and said, 'Come out to Turuki Healthcare in Māngere and I'll [vaccinate] you'," Anna said.
"Then I decided I'd get it done."
However, the cruel realities of Covid hit home soon after when one of her best friends brought the virus home to her 92-year-old mother, which proved fatal.
"[My friend] went out to do the shopping for the whānau and came home with it and gave it to Nana and within a week, she was dead."
Putting to one side the grief of losing a kuia, Anna said the changes lockdown enforced on normal tangi [funeral] protocol was heart-breaking.
"The point is we couldn't do what we needed to do, right down to her karakia, we had to watch via Zoom.
"It's not something I'd ever want to do again. Her whānau fought to get an exemption to bury her over the border ... she had to lay on her own for three weeks."
They had been just one of many Hoani Waititi whānau who had lost their loved ones during lockdown - some unable to get exemptions and return those who had passed to their whakapapa.
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It's these experiences that have made it clear to Anna that vaccination was the most effective tool to reinstating normal life.
"I think our tikanga are suffering and the things that we normally do as whānau ... for us not to be able to do those things is terrible.
"The major thing for us as Hoani Waititi, to get back to practise [Māori life] in a normal way, I think it's integral that everyone is vaccinated."
She said many reluctant whānau expressed concern about vaccination compromising tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake - Māori sovereignty and self determination.
While she understood the point of view, Anna was brutally honest in her position.
"People can talk about mana motuhake all they like but there's no point having mana motuhake if you're six feet under," she said.
"Our rangatira here on the marae have said, 'Get it done in order to keep our babies and our kaumātua safe and in order for us to get back to some sense of normalcy as Māori'.
"For me, tino rangatiratanga is about following the examples of our rangatira."
Anna's husband Tahuri was similarly reluctant to get the vaccine initially. However, he noted how "spiritually draining" it was, being separated from his whakapapa and believed vaccination was the only answer.
"If you want to participate in these things [like tangi] and you want them to continue, you need to do everything in your power to make yourself safe around others," he said.
It wasn't just whānau who were encouraging vaccination but the kura community as a whole.
The kura had sourced a dental care van, and later a motorhome, which had been turned into a mobile vaccination clinic.
Since last week, kura health staff had been vaccinating the wider community - linking up with other kura as a way to boost vaccination levels among Māori.
Mobile vaccination team lead Pirihira Puata said using Māori staff ensured vaccination could occur in a mana-enhancing way.
"The whānau know who we are, they can relate to us, we are able to articulate and explain what the Covid vaccines are and we are able to do it in a kaupapa Māori way in words that they can understand."
Kura principal Hare Rua said while it was still early days, the mobile unit had been a success and he hoped to co-ordinate with other kura to boost access for whānau.
About 75 per cent of the kura's 110-strong roll was vaccinated. Rua aimed to increase that to 85 per cent at this weekend's Super Saturday vaccination drive.
Rua, who had been long petitioning for more resources to vaccinate kura whānau, was glad health staff had the opportunity to meet whānau in their homes and explain the benefits of vaccination - something he initially questioned too.
"For some people, like myself, it was just multiple messaging over time, just putting the picture together and then building that trust and understanding around vaccination, but also a commitment to our community and ensuring the safety of our kaumātua."