Kin Groups and Descent. The nuclear family was the basic unit of Kanak society. The family was incorporated into an extended family (usually three generations deep), lineage, and clan that did not represent territorial groups but rather successively larger patrilineal units sharing the same rites and symbols and the same marriage customs. Extended families were assembled into wider groups of affiliation by reference to a common place (homestead mound) of origin. Genealogy was spatially manifested by routes marked by a succession of occupied sites or mounds, and within each clan the lineages were positioned hierarchically according to the antiquity of their first residence in the genealogical itinerary. During the colonial period, clans were arbitrarily associated with a territory so that previously social groupings became geographic groupings on reserves.
Kinship Terminology. On La Grande Terre there were at least two distinct kinship systems. In the first system, in Hienghène, Balade, Pouebo, and Voh, all sisters and female cross and parallel cousins were called by the same term. The unique attribute of this system was its asymmetry, as a father's sister's husband was called maternal uncle even though his wife (father's sister) was called mother. In the second system, a distinction was made between consanguines and affines, that is, between sisters and female cross and parallel cousins.