Social Organization. The Tauade are divided into a number of autonomous named groups inhabiting the spurs Between major streams on the side of the valleys. It is convenient to refer to these groups as "tribes," and their average population is about 200. Tribes are divided into several named clans, who live dispersed in hamlets—usually about five or six in each tribe. Hamlets comprise groups of brothers, often with their fathers and mothers if these are still alive, and these groups are linked by cognatic and affinal ties or by friendship alone. Men frequently move from one hamlet to another and to other tribes, but there are norms of cooperation between hamlet members and fighting is rare. Relations between members of different hamlets are frequently hostile.
Political Organization. In each hamlet there is at least one big-man with his supporters, who may include agnates, cognates, affines, and friends. The functions of the big-man are to coordinate ceremonies, to make speeches, and to give generously, and in each tribe there is a senior clan whose leading big-man traditionally was responsible for conducting peace negotiations with other tribes when warfare occurred. While the status of big-man is not inherited and depends on personal qualities, it has a strong hereditary component, and in many cases big-men are the sons, grandsons, or nephews of former big-men, whose places they are said to take. Ceremonial exchange of pork is very important in Tauade society, and big-men take a leading part in this practice, but they are not the managerial figures described in the ethnography of highland New Guinea. Some of them were war leaders, but this position was not essential to becoming a big-man. At the other end of the social scale are "rubbish men," who are Usually bachelors (because they are unable to attract wives), poor, and regarded as mean and useless members of society. In traditional times, they were killed with relative impunity, unlike the big-men whose deaths always produced large-scale vengeance.
Social Control. Big-men have no judicial authority, and while they may be able to persuade a supporter to pay compensation, they have no authority to settle disputes. Disagreements are extremely frequent, since the Tauade are very sensitive to insult, and there was a high level of violence in the traditional society over pigs, women, theft, and other provocations. In the case of disputes within the family, the relatives of the husband and wife may try to make peace, and residence in the same hamlet restrains disputes fairly effectively. A man's fellow residents will support him if he has a dispute with someone of another hamlet or of a different tribe, and they may even accompany him if he goes to get redress for a stolen wife or pig. They will also put pressure on him to pay compensation if he is the guilty party in a dispute, and they do not feel obliged to risk a fight to defend him in such cases. If a man is injured in some way, he may take immediate physical revenge, delay retribution for years, or ask for compensation. In the case of adultery, such compensation is often paid, but there is no way of legally enforcing claims to compensation except through government courts. Those who are on bad terms avoid one another and live in different hamlets, and these hostilities are often long-standing, so that when the Tauade are asked why they do not live in a single village—which would be quite practicable—they reply "because of our ancestors." In the case of homicide, the murderer often flees to his wife's or mother's tribe and stays there until tempers cool, at which time he offers compensation; if this restitution is accepted he may return to his own tribe.
Conflict. In the traditional society, the murder rate was approximately 1 in 200 per year or even higher, and there was almost as much killing, violence, and theft within the tribes as there was between them. Proximity was the principal cause of this: adjacent tribes on the same side of a river fought most often; tribes on opposite sides of a river fought less; and tribes on opposite sides of the forested mountain ridges fought least. A man who had killed another was entitled to wear a shell homicide emblem on his forehead, and this medal was much admired by women. A man might take vengeance against any member of a tribe that had killed a member of his own tribe (or one of his friends or relatives in any other tribe) so that there were many occasions for vengeance. Those selected as victims were usually weak or insignificant persons whose killing could be readily settled by an offer of compensation; grudges were remembered for many years. The killing of a big-man could start full-scale war between tribes, in which hamlets were burned, gardens destroyed, and many deaths inflicted. Members of a tribe that was losing such a war might disperse to live with their relatives in neighboring tribes, and it was common to show hospitality to those driven out of their tribal land. But tribes usually returned to their land after a year or two, and land conquest was not a feature of Tauade warfare. The bodies of slain enemies from other tribes were often eaten, or they were mutilated to cause distress to their relatives.