In the movie "Whale Rider," what are some of the challenges that this Maoiri community faces in trying to keep their traditions?

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The challenges the Maori community faces stem from the world that's changing around them and the difficulty of adapting ancient traditions to reflect the modern world. They also have to cope with people choosing to put their own self-interest before that of the community.

Each chief in the tribe is...

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The challenges the Maori community faces stem from the world that's changing around them and the difficulty of adapting ancient traditions to reflect the modern world. They also have to cope with people choosing to put their own self-interest before that of the community.

Each chief in the tribe is supposed to be a direct descendant of the whale rider. This would have gone to Pai's twin brother, but he died at birth. She can't inherit the position because she's a girl. However, she wants to become the chief and believes she's capable of doing so. Ultimately, to keep their traditions intact and still exist in the modern world, they have to adapt to new ways of doing things.

The conflict between Pai and her grandfather is the main conflict in the film. He doesn't want to see her become chief despite his love for her; he believes that the traditional way of doing things is the right way to do it. One example of this is that he's willing to find a new tribal leader through the young men in the tribe rather than encourage his granddaughter to develop the same skills. Even when she gives a speech about her love for him, he chooses not to show up at the assembly. Her father rejects tradition. Her grandfather is too firmly stuck to it. But her uncle helps her find a balance by respecting tradition but opening the tribal traditions to Pai as well, even though she's a girl.

Another conflict the community faces is the loss of people who want to find other ways to live. Pai's father, Porourangi, moves to a different country after his personal tragedies. He could have carried on the tribe for his father but instead chose to pursue his own life—putting the individual ahead of the community.

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One simple but major challenge is to retain leadership and continuity of population and, in this way, culture. Pai's father is supposed to be the next leader of his tribe, but he is drawn away into a life outside of the Maori ways.

Losing him, the village loses the potency of continuity in leadership. 

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This amazing film presents us with an ancient world struggling to find its way in a modern world. Various outside forces such as globalisation, the economy and migration have all taken their toll on the Maori community so that they are forsaking their traditions and giving way to drink and drugs. Pai's Grandfather of course sees himself as the bastion of tradition, and works hard to do everything he can to stop the decline of his tribe, but it is interesting that in spite of all his efforts it is Pai who shows she is able to bring the tribe back together.

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It is the same set of challenges faced by cultures the world over, and compares closely to the Native American struggle in the United States.  The world around them is modernizing, and the younger generation sees less and less value in learning and maintaining the older traditions and rituals.  The older generation, represented here by the grandfather, is intensely worried about this, and feels the loss personally. 

Pai's Grandfather takes it upon himself to teach the young men the ways of the elders, starting a school and beginning a search for the new leader to take the people forward. 

He has to fight against a lot, including a group of young people who are ignorant of the ways of the tribe, lack respect for elders and their customs, and who have parents who do not support what Grandfather is trying to do.  He also faces resistance within his own family, from a son who has left the community permanently (Pai's father) and another son who deeply disappoints him and uses drugs.

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