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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 ?
The father-of-four, who will be known as The Buchanan, added: "My family have been acknowledged as leaders of one of the principal clan septs - the Buchanans of Leny and Arnprior - for many years but we have also believed that we had a good case for the overall chiefship.
Rural Africans also voiced concerns about the interference of white officials in political matters such as succession to chiefship or the appointment of headmen, the allocation of land, and disruptions in social structures due to the increasing role played by migrant labor in the region.
Chol Marial Ater, who served three years in the chiefship, dismissed Lago's statement, saying that "we have not broken the law, the law has been broken by our top leaders because when we capture marauders they are released out by [authorities].
Although by the "courtesy of Scotland" a person marrying an heiress takes her name, yet the celtic law, or patriarchal rule, does not give him the chiefship, which, like the salique law which prevailed in France, excludes the "regimen of women." It would therefore appear that the Logans left wester, and moved towards easter Ross, the chief settling in Ardmeinach, since called Ellan dubh, or the Black Isle, and although they have always been highly respected and enterprising in farming and commercial pursuits, they afford an instance of the loss of a considerable landed inheritance, and in a great measure of the original strength of patriarchal influence.
As highly sought-after experts on the natural and spiritual world, they facilitated Bantu expansion that began as early as 5000 BCE; were pivotal figures in the spread of iron technology; assisted in the evolution of chiefship, the rise of territorial politics, and great kingdoms; and, after AD 1400, became vital suppliers in the Atlantic trade complex.
Paul said: "It is my hope to bring this chiefship home to where it belongs - to the McAuleys of the Glens."
Politically too, chiefship was held primarily by men among the principal Bhil lineages, with each important lineage controlling some villages.
Though chiefship in many parts of Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa, predated the colonial era, it was through the Indirect Rule system of government that it gained a modern outlook.
Along the entire coast, however, symbolic cannibalism was a mark of high chiefship, but most of a century would pass before scholars understood this.
In Fiji, the concept of respect (veidokai) denotes 'a reciprocity that must be understood within a framework of hierarchy and beliefs about divine chiefship' (Rutz 1995:75; see also Arno 2005).