Choiseul Island - Kinship

Kin Groups. The term sinangge (Varisi language) designates both the egocentric personal kindred and the cognatic stock consisting of all descendants of a married pair, whether through males or females. Named units of the latter kind, some seven to twelve generations in depth, are associated with large areas of land, some of it said to have been first cleared by the founding ancestor; in some instances that area is divided between different branches of the major sinangge. Any member of a sinangge—and each person is a member of more than one—has a right to use of some of its land for Subsistence purposes but cannot alienate it from the group. Usually a subset of the members of such a cognatic stock reside together at some place on its land and form a cohesive Political, economic, and ceremonial unit via common allegiance to a big-man leader; the local group centering on such a sinangge may include not only the spouses and relatives of spouses of sinangge members, but also long- or short-term visitors, some of whom (in the past) may have been enjoying the protection of its big-man or leader. In principle Membership in the "little sinangge" is always open to members of its more inclusive sinangge, and any individual may freely choose to affiliate himself or herself with any local sinangge within any large sinangge of which he or she is a member. In practice, each local sinangge effectively controls who is allowed admission to its ranks; although it cannot admit to its ranks persons not descended from the relevant apical ancestor, it can exclude persons who are such descendants.

Descent. Descendants of a sinangge founder are divided into those related to him solely through men (i.e., his patrilineal descendants) and those related to him through at least one female tie (i.e., his nonpatrilineal descendants). This distinction is relevant only in internal affairs; it has no bearing on membership status per se.

Kinship Terminology. This system departs from being simply "generational" or Hawaiian-like only in having a distinct term for a mother's brother (not "father") and in designating a man's sister's child as "grandchild."

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