the answers are in the novel widely
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A male heir is needed to replace a Maori tribe's ageing Chief. His first born great grandchild turns out to be a girl named Paikea. A girl is not acceptable as chief, especially in a male dominated culture. Paikea refuses to stand down from her destiny. Paikea proves herself over and over again;she achieves what the boys fail to do. She retrieves Kon's sacred whale tooth and aids the sacred whales when they are beached. Paikea proves her destiny is not dictated by her gender by her sheer will and belief in herself.