In the novel Whale Rider, Koro Apirana cannot face the fact that a woman soon may lead his tribe. Maori tradition states that men are sacred and they should have power in society. This is why Koro Apirana is so frustrated that his firstborn grandchild is a girl. He ignores all signs that prove Kahu is meant to be the next whale rider; something only the original leader of the tribe was able to do. Koro Apirana realizes his granddaughter’s destiny after Kahu plunges into the sea with the whale. His grandchild, although a girl, is fit to lead their tribe even if tradition does not agree.
Tradition is the most important thing in Koro Apirana's life. He does not seem to understand that with time, things have to change in order for society to progress. He is stuck in his stubbornness over a Maori tradition that is outdated in the modern era. Although the book never states the time period, the audience knows that it is in present day. For example, when Rawiri goes Australia he sees skyscrapers and realizes that the Maori life isn't all that there is in the world. I think this is a key part to the book because it puts their life into perspective; that the customs and traditions of the Maoris don't always have to be put first.
Another part in the novel that I think is very important is when Koro Apirana finally accepts the fact that Kahu is going to be the heir and tells her he loves her. He finally accepts her as his eldest grandchild, as a part of his family. In doing so, Koro Apirana also accepts change. At the end of the novel, he seems to finally be cutting his ties with tradition and embracing change that will eventually lead to progress.
Throughout the entire novel, Koro Apirana has been the strict, stubborn character. Finally, at the end of the novel, he realizes the errors of his ways and is able to bring Kahu into his family and be happy as one whole tribe because Kahu fixed the relationship between the whales and the people.