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Traditional Micronesian SocietiesAdaptation, Integration, and Political Organization in the Central Pacific$
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Glenn Petersen

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832483

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832483.001.0001

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Chieftainship and Government

Chieftainship and Government

(p.125) Chapter 6 Chieftainship and Government
Traditional Micronesian Societies

Glenn Petersen

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter deals with the broad sweep of political life in Micronesia, focusing on chieftainship and government. Micronesian concepts of chieftainship for the most part define the character of government in the islands. While each society has its own forms of government, organized around its own sorts of formal leadership roles, the underlying principles are very much the same everywhere, and these principles entail two related and overlapping but nonetheless distinct categories of chiefs: lineage chiefs and territorial chief,. Lineage chiefs are heads of descent groups. They are ordinarily mature men who have some claim to a degree of genealogical seniority within the group, whether this is reckoned in terms of being a member of the group’s senior line or a senior member of any line within the group. Territorial chiefs are leaders of what are ordinarily well-recognized, geographically demarcated places, whether they are islands (or clusters of islands), districts or portions of islands, or subsidiary divisions of larger polities. They are the official leaders of all the people living within this territory. Their authority is generally much more substantial than that of lineage chiefs.

Keywords:   Micronesia, Micronesian political life, chieftainship, government, lineage chiefs, territorial chiefs

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