Kiwai - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. There are no differences of rank among the Kiwai, and every man is the equal of every other. This is partly facilitated by there being little property which would constitute a difference in wealth. There are, however, some differences in status based on differences in skills. Successful gardeners, hunters, and harpooners, as well as Renowned sorcerers, great warriors, and eloquent orators command respect and recognition from others. People with physical and mental disabilities are looked down upon, as are idlers, braggarts, and widowers who have not remarried. According to Landtman, women are almost equal to men. They possess property (except land), and they can do as they please with the things that they produce. They are, however, excluded from many public affairs and from men's religious secrets including myths and rituals. Landtman reports that a woman would be killed if she were to find out anything about the men's secrets but, outside the world of men's secrets, women publicly express their opinions and are listened to.

Political Organization. The Kiwai have no chiefs. Tribal authority is exercised collectively by several men, each of whom is the head of a totemic clan. Leaders are middle-aged men of some exceptional ability, and their influence decreases as soon as they begin to lose their physical and mental powers.

Social Control. In the case of violent death, revenge (either by sorcery or physical attack) was taken on the murderer as soon as possible. Revenge was the responsibility of the Entire clan. Prior to pacification, almost every homicide led to fighting, but nowadays compensation is the usual way of settling a homicide.

Conflict. The Kiwai distinguish between hostility between clans of the same village or between related village Communities and conflict between tribes that are hereditary enemies or that regularly raid one another. The first type of conflict involves few fatalities. The second type has the purpose of killing as many enemies as possible, destroying their property, and taking the heads of the people who are killed. Most conflicts are over women.

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