Kurtatchi - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Traditional Tinputz society was relatively egalitarian, especially in comparison with some other Melanesian groups. Relations between the sexes tended toward complementarity, rather than hierarchy; women as well as men could inherit high rank. Today, distinctions of wealth and education are more notable.

Political Organization. Traditional Tinputz hamlets appear to have operated as autonomous units. Within each hamlet, the senior male and female of the most important lineage were recognized as tsunaun, a "person of importance." It is not clear how much real power the tsunaun exercised Before European contact, but the position seems to have been one of influence and status, rather than necessarily of Political authority. Tsunaun were certainly treated deferentially and stages in their life cycle were occasions for elaborate Ceremonies. Male tsunaun normally had several wives. Rank was not based on property; succession passed matrilineally. German and Australian administrations appointed village headmen, and today Tinputz elect representatives to the Provincial Assembly and to the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly.

Social Control. The tsunaun was supposed to settle disputes within his own village, and may have had the power to pass the death sentence on someone guilty of persistent antisocial behavior. However, a much more pervasive method of social control lay in the fear of harmful magic that could be performed by a victim against an offender. The usual way of expressing anger was to break up one's own personal possessions. Today Tinputz are subject to the laws of Papua New Guinea, which include a system of village courts for settling local disputes.

Conflict. A state of sporadic warfare existed before Colonization, especially between coastal and interior dwellers, but also among coastal people themselves. A tsunaun was expected to lead his village or even a group of villages in such conflict. It seems that warfare took the form of raids and ambushes, rather than pitched battles. One motive for raids was the capture of prisoners to be eaten. Colonial administrations regarded eliminating warfare as a first task, but groups living inland from the Tinputz continued cannibal raids on coastal villages until after World War II.

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