Social Organization. A major social division in Tikopia is into four kainanga (clans), each an aggregate of half a dozen or so paito (lineages). Each clan is headed by a hereditary chief, with an order of precedence based upon former Religious ritual: Kafika, Tafua, Taumako, Fangarere. Crosscutting the clan organization is a local grouping into residential districts. Between the two largest of these, Ravenga on the east side of the island and Faea on the west, there is traditional rivalry, most notably in dancing and political prestige. The Tikopia social system has been asymmetrical in the relative status of men and women. Men have held all positions of political and ritual power, though the influence of women has been strong domestically and in general social affairs. Modern developments, especially in the overseas settlements, have tended to modify, and not necessarily improve, these relations.
Political Organization. Traditionally, Tikopia chiefs held absolute power in extremity over their people, especially over their own clanmembers, though this power could be modified by conventional methods of constraining a chief to respond to public opinion. Chiefs were and still are tapu (sacred) and treated with great respect. Formerly, chiefly families tended to form an intermarrying class, but nowadays unions between commoners and the children of chiefs are frequent.
Conflict and Social Control. According to tradition, conflict between individuals and between groups has been Common in Tikopia in struggles for land and power, resulting in slaughter or expulsion of sections of the population. Nowadays external government sanctions and the influence of Christianity make such extreme solutions most improbable, and social friction seems to be held in check by a sense of common purpose in the advancement of Tikopia against the outside world. Internally, chiefs exercise their control through executives ( maru ), their brothers or cousins in the male line who act in the chief's name to keep public order. In overseas settlements, men appointed by the chiefs serve as leaders and advisers. In modern times especially, public assemblies ( fono ) are called by maru to hear the instructions of chiefs.