Ajië - Sociopolitical Organization

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France and it is ruled through the office of the high commissioner. The territory has some autonomy over regional matters, but France controls all areas of education, defense, law and order, justice, etc. Today, everyone in New Caledonia is considered a French citizen.

Social Organization. The traditional social structure was closely related to a set of spatial reference points such as homestead mounds, inhabited places, and various other natural features, all of which were carefully inventoried and delimited the rights of the human population over its lands and waters. Those people descended from the first homestead mounds occupied by the clan were considered clan elders and they were consulted on all moral issues (e.g., land disputes) and matrimonial matters. Ceremonial exchanges reinforced families' social and political identity vis-à-vis one another. For example, maternal and paternal kin-group relations were defined by the ceremonial exchanges surrounding birth, marriage, and death.

Political Organization. Heads of lineages were seen as the guardians of the social and symbolic relations that united families into communal and regional political alliances. These "chiefs" were also focal points in a redistribution network. They received a part of the first yam harvest and a certain portion of all the land animals and fish caught. Some have seen these offerings as a type of tribute but in fact the chief quickly redistributed these offerings and sometimes even supplemented the redistribution with food from his own garden. Chiefs were reduced by colonial civil service into labor-recruitment officers and tax-collection agents. The territory is now divided into thirty-two districts known as communes and organized into three provinces that send elected officials to a territorial congress. A large number of traditional chiefs have entered the modern political arena.

Social Control. The structural model for Kanak society was the family where the junior family members were under the authority of the senior members. Similarly, junior lineages traditionally owed "service" to elder ones and conversely the elders had responsibilities toward the cadet lineages, just as adults were responsible for the well-being of the children who owed them obedience.

Conflict. Prior to French occupation, Kanak men engaged in clan warfare. The Kanaks also strongly resisted French Occupation, killing settlers and missionaries. The largest rebellion against French presence took place in 1878 when the Kanaks almost regained control of their islands. In the twentieth century, the clash of Kanak nationalism against the mass of entrenched settlers has catapulted the territory into world headlines.

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