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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.


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 ?
Thus in March 1905, the Governor General made an administrative order to the effect that, the Ngok of Arop Biong, the Twic of Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei, Panaru of Chief Bill Kuei and Alor of Kuur Kuot Chiefdoms, were officially transferred from northern Bahr al Ghazal and northern Upper Nile respectively to Kordofan Province.
In her seminal study of Mpondomise in the early twentieth century, Wilson (then writing under her maiden name) distinguished between military attacks on other chiefdoms (legally sanctioned only by a paramount) and more commonplace raids led by district chiefs against chiefs from other clans (Hunter 1979 [1936]: 412).
Bo District consists of 15 chiefdoms and approximately 1,000 villages and has both rural and urban areas.
115), and he never explains why patronage cannot be a part of chiefdom and state relations.
One of these was the Qwabe chiefdom, which settled just across the Tugela within sight and under constant threat from the Zulu state, and it is to their transformation that Mahoney pays particular attention.
Powhatan originally inherited chiefdoms in the upper James and York river basins; from there he either conquered other groups or intimidated them into joining his organization.
In his examination, Guiart returns to his own work on chiefdoms, conducted in the 1960s and to a Maurice Leenhardt's chapter which was introducing the various rituals related to the growing of yams.
The rise, and in some cases, the demise of chiefdoms and kingdoms in Africa differ from one country to another and from one region to the other.
She looks at the social and environmental aspects of the agrarian economy of the Quijos chiefdoms in the eastern piedmont of Ecuador, and their relationship to political dynamics in order to find patterns in agricultural production and consumption during the period when chiefdoms emerged in the region.
Here we take as our starting point Irving Goldman's interpretation of social organization in the Society Islands, and argue for an earlier existence of either traditional chiefdoms and/or open chiefdoms in the Leeward Society Islands.
The chiefdoms grew in size until the 1700's when it was standard for there to be a dominant chief of each island, and they continued to balloon until most of Hawaii was controlled by three chiefdoms in the mid 1770's.
The company is employing 450 workers from three chiefdoms.