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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 ?
From a Samoan perspective, she is not of lesser status and she is treated in the same manner as that of the wife of a high chief.
Today The Hartford named Lori High chief sales and marketing officer for Group Benefits.
FUIMAONO KARL PULOTU-ENDEMANN, MNZM, JP, RPN, RGON, Adv Dip Nurs, is Samoan born and holds the Samoan Matai high chief title of Fuimaono.
chief 'The young man is squeezing the high chiefs kava /the kava for the high chief now.
From a family of 15 siblings, he was the grandson of David Belden Lyman--a Christian missionary from New England who settled in the Hilo, Hawaii area--and the descendent of Kualii, high chief of Oahu.
Current President Jurelang Zedkaia is a traditional high chief.
In this regard she has the support of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Fiji's former vice president and a traditional high chief, who has maintained that 'the Pacific is a better place for the infusion of human rights'.
Melina, the wife of the high chief of the village, was very well respected as she taught her children and others the customs of our people.
I'm very proud to tell you what I am," continues the actor, who commemorated his Samoan heritage by getting a series of tattoos that tell his life story "I had a title, a high chief title, bestowed on me from a king of Samoa, who passed away about a year and a hall ago.
It features a high chief ray angle which allows for a reduction in module height that can fit in thin notebook computers.
THE pressure is on John Obi Mikel, Kanu and Yakubu to deliver at the Africa Cup of Nations after a sensational outburst from Nigerian High Chief Alex Akinyele, once a government sport minister.