Ngatatjara - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. No corporate groups exist above the level of patrilineages, and these operate primarily in the domain of sacred and ceremonial affaire. In such patrilineages, age and subgroupings into alternating generations are sometimes important, expecially in the conduct of ritual activities.

Political Organization. In matters of daily life, Ngatatjara society is essentially egalitarian. Joint decisions involving several families are reached only after considerable argument, and the parties may exhibit reluctance to impose or accept decisions. Matters involving sacred affaire present indications of a more coherent leadership structure based upon relative age and sacred knowledge.

Conflict. Conflicts between individuals and individual families are fairly common and can result in personal violence. Disputes over marriages and sexual affaire are frequent, with some disputes over control of sacred sites and other sacred information as well. Cases of this latter kind of dispute became more common as European-Australian mining exploration extended deeply into the Western Desert during the 1960s and later.

Social Control. Individuals who are aggrieved in some way may call upon their kin to support them against whoever may have offended them. In serious cases this can result in spearing directed at the thighs of males representing their respective kin groups. There are no courts or officials to settle matters at a higher level. Patrilineages can apply sanctions to anyone who trespasses or commits a sacrilege on a sacred Dreaming site under their control. Informal mechanisms like gossip are often effective for social control at the domestic level.

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