Wiyot - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. There was no formal or rigid Organization at the tribal level. The chief or headman's main function was apparently to receive the largest share of food and property during ceremonies. There were no war chiefs. Social rank was based on wealth and birth, although "common," or poor men were related to "nobles."

Political Organization. The Wiyot were divided into three separate subgroups occupying the Humboldt Bay (Wikí), Mad River (Batawat), and Eel River (Wiyot) regions. The groups evidently did not unite for common purposes such as war or conflicts with neighboring groups. Within each group, patrilineally related households and communities could form alliances against others when required.

Social Control. Physical and social self-restraint were encouraged as the qualities by which a man could obtain and retain his wealth and become wealthier. A system of fines for violations of the moral code (for example, adultery or seduction) and the low social status of the poor were the principal controls at work for individuals.

Conflict. Murder, insults, and poaching were causes of both internal and external conflicts. Both surprise attacks and staged battles were fought with neighboring groups such as the Whilkut. Warriors used bows and arrows, elkhide body armor, and rawhide shields. Women and children were not killed, and both sides were compensated for destroyed property.


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