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chief

or

chieftain,

political leader of a band, tribe, or confederation of tribes. At the simpler levels of social organization, the band or tribe usually lacks centralized authority and is ruled by the totality of adult males or of family or clanclan,
social group based on actual or alleged unilineal descent from a common ancestor. Such groups have been known in all parts of the world and include some that claim the parentage or special protection of an animal, plant, or other object (see totem).
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 heads. Sometimes a temporary headman is chosen for a special occasion such as a hunting or war party. When authority is concentrated in one individual on a more permanent basis, the chief may have limited functions, such as the organization and supervision of work parties, religious ceremonies, the collection and distribution of goods, or service as a war leader. A community may possess several chiefs among whom various functions are divided. Chieftainship may be achieved through inherent qualities of leadership, through the display of powers considered supernatural (see shamanshaman
, religious practitioner in various, generally small-scale societies who is believed to be able to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause illness because of a special relationship with, or control over, spirits.
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), through rank or wealth, or through hereditary succession. The power of chiefs is usually checked by custom and by kinship allegiances. The term chiefdom is sometimes used in political anthropology to designate a particular degree of social organization, intermediate between tribe and state.

Bibliography

See L. P. Mair, Primitive Government (2d ed. 1964); M. Fried, The Evolution of Political Society (1967); M. Sahlins, Tribesmen (1968); E. Service, Primitive Social Organization (2d ed. 1971).

References in periodicals archive ?
installation yaqona a high chief becomes the leader of a vanua--land or
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The legislative branch of the government consists of the Nitijela (parliament) with an advisory council of high chiefs.
My advice to them is, when they get to the pitch on January 21 in Ghana, they should do what high chiefs do in Ondo when they accept the title of High Chief.
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The High Chief has described Airtel's accomplishment as unparalleled.
The high chief, Tamatoa (not the Raiatean Tamatoa), was in favour of stronger links with Tahiti and Raiatea and accordingly gave his protection to the Raiatean teachers.
The calf is to be called Tung a -- meaning erect, lofty, high chief and strong.
Until March 31, Kinloch Lodge, an exclusive hotel run for 30 years by Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald, and his wife, cookery writer Claire Macdonald, offers a special rate of pounds 90-pounds 110 per person for dinner and B&B, with a welcoming glass of champers on arrival, until March 31.
Their first target is the Lord High Chief Justice, who is travelling home from a lavish do with his not so ugly daughter Rebecca (Liv Tyler).
Natural High Chief Visionary Officer Jon Sundt said, "This iPad app enables us to deliver our message digitally with amazing graphics and high-quality celebrity videos to millions of students.