Rossel Island - Sociopolitical Organization

Rossel Island is part of Papua New Guinea, a sovereign state in the British Commonwealth. Rossel elects one member to the Provincial Assembly of the Milne Bay Province. With the East Calvados chain and Sudest Rossel forms the Yelayamba Local Government Council and elects seven of the sixteen councillors.

Social Organization. There is no descent group rank on Rossel. Inequality is manifested in the greater influence and prestige of elders in relation to the young and men in relation to women. A "financial aristocracy" of exchange experts and owners of high-rank shell money form the dominating stratum of the population.

Political Organization. The island is divided into ten Census "villages" that, in combinations, elect the seven local Government councillors. A lower-lever functionary is the komiti. Precolonial leaders were warriors, ritual experts, and powerful big-men. The last category had attached henchmen and Controlled high-rank shell money used in payments for cannibal victims. Pacification and mission influence weakened the power of indigenous leaders but elderly males with financial expertise still command some local influence. Councillors are younger men with outside experience and language ability. The government provides primary-school education, a hospital, medical aid posts, and other services, such as an airstrip, a minor wharf, and water-supply facilities.

Social Control and Conflict. Pacification and mission Influence have produced a very peaceful society on Rossel Island. Conflicts and disputes are remarkably rare. A major deterrent from offending others is fear of sorcery retaliation. Dominance over the young is supported by the control of the elders of supernatural knowledge and of the intricate system of exchange of indigenous valuables. While villagers attempt to settle minor offenses informally, major delicts are prosecuted by the government, represented on the island by a patrol post.

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