Pukapuka - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The most prominent element of modern Pukapukan social organization—other than the above-cited social units relating to land tenure—is a pattern of crosscutting ties that binds individuals of different groups together. As noted, a single individual may well belong to a number of koputangata at the same time. Also, residence within a village does not necessarily coincide with Membership (especially in Ngake village). The traditional matrilineal units also provided crosscutting ties for the localized patrilineages. Such ties fit with a general pattern among Polynesian atolls: group boundaries are not demarcated to the extent that individuals cannot readily cross them in time of need. Today, the production of copra and sport competitions are organized on a village basis.

Political Organization. Like other Polynesian islands, Pukapuka traditionally possessed a number of chiefs. Paramount among these was the chief associated with the i Tua (the founding ancestor) patrilineage. But like other atolls, egalitarian orientations were also emphasized and chiefly status did not have the markers or privileges common on higher islands. Today the overall allocation of funding for the atoll is made by the Cook Islands' parliament in Rarotonga to which Pukapuka elects one member. On the island itself, a government-appointed chief administration officer wields considerable power in interpreting and carrying out the national government's orders. An island council with two representatives from each village conducts much of the islandwide business. Along with a more traditional "Council of Important People" (in native terms, "Kau Wowolo"), it represents the central law-making body on the island. At a lower level, villages hold meetings every fortnight in which all adult Members participate.

Social Control. There are relatively few formal criminal violations on the island. The rare occurrences are handled by the government's single police officer. Each village has its own pule, or council of elders, that enforces village decisions. Being reduced to a child's share in village food divisions ( wakatamaliki ) is perhaps the most serious punishment outside of the rare jail sentence.

Conflict. Armed conflict occurred between various groups in precontact times, though not on a continuing basis. Today, competition in the form of status rivalries pervades the island. It finds its most prominent expression in sports. Winners proudly display themselves before losers, ridiculing them in victory speeches. But very rarely does such verbal humor lead to physical conflict.

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