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.
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.
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.
This same problem is faced by peoples all over the world. The cultures that have dies out have not just modernized but progressed. Without progression, a culture does not have a chance. The only small cultures left are in places that no other people wants to be. Otherwise, they will just be conquered by a larger, stronger, and more progressed people.