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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 ?
Gross profit margin for the pharmaceutical business fell to 36 percent from 39 percent chiefly on account of devaluation of Pakistani rupee and increase in raw material prices.
Meanwhile, a boost is expected in investment and net trade.Investment growth is set to culminate in 2018 at around 6 percent, driven mainly by major projects in the car industry, chiefly the completion of the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Nitra.
New Delhi [India], Apr 22 ( ANI ): The last financial year- 2017-18 saw a steep decline in the number of rail accidents, chiefly due to the extensive rail track upgradation taken up by the Railway Ministry.
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Like Sahlins, Sissons develops a version of habitus from Bourdieu's theory of practice and applies this to chiefly iconoclasm.
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Later, when Poland was under communist control, recognizing that historic event was forbidden, chiefly because the Home Army also had fought against Soviet rule.
Supply in January on the international market was 34.2% up year-on-year, chiefly due to new daily routes to Santo Domingo, Miami and Orlando which started by the end of last year.
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Cowell claims he's chiefly responsible for raising awareness of the country's up and coming singers.