Kin Groups and Descent. Tikopia society has been Divided into a large number of unilineal named descent groups, determined genealogically and tracing ancestry back for up to ten generations. These groups are termed paito, a word with a wide range of meanings including "house" and "household." They can be conveniently called lineages. Over time, segmentation can lead to the formation of new lineages, while failure of male heirs leads to lineage extinction. For corporate kin group membership as regards land rights, marriage arrangements, and funeral rites, the principle of transmission is rigidly patrilineal. But the kin bond with mother and mother's lineage is also very strongly held, represented by formal and informal support in a variety of social situations. The importance of this bond is indicated by the term tama tapu (literally, "sacred child") applied formally to a child of any woman of a lineage. Members of a mother's lineage rally round their nephew or niece at birth, initiation, illness, or death.
Kinship Terminology. Tikopia kinship terminology is relatively simple with cousin terms of the Hawaiian type. Generation differences are marked: grandparent ( puna); parent (matua); father ( tamana ) ; mother ( nana ) ; sibling ( taina, of same sex; kave, of opposite sex); child (tama); grandchild ( makopuna ). In general the system is "classificatory," putting all kin of the same general type under one term. But distinct terms exist for father's sister ( masikitanga ) and mother's brother ( tuatina ), who have special social roles.