Truk - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. In each district the lineage with title to its space held the chiefship. The several lineages with full or residual titles to plots of soil had full residential rights. Lineages with only provisional titles to plots of soil in grant from other lineages had only conditional residential rights. Lineages with full residential rights maintained symbolic hearths where, with their client lineages, they prepared food to present to the chief in recognition of his lineage's ownership of the space.

Political Organization. A district chiefship was divided between the oldest man in the senior female line in the chiefly lineage and the oldest man in the lineage generally. The latter was executive chief, or "chief of talk," and the former was symbolic chief, or "chief of food." Food presentations were made to the symbolic chief. Sometimes the symbolic and executive functions fell to the same individual; often they did not. The symbolic chief was surrounded by his lineage brothers and by his sons, who acted as his agents. These followers and his sisters and daughters were of chiefly rank, distinct from commoners. Through conquest, a lineage might gain the chiefship in more than one district and establish a junior branch as the chiefly lineage in the conquered district. The now subordinate district rendered food presentations to the superordinate one. Most districts were linked in two rival leagues based on competing schools of magic and ritual relating to war, politics, and rhetoric. A chief's authority derived from two things. His lineage's ownership of the district's space entitled him to presentations of first fruits at stated times of the year. More importantly, it gave him authority over the conservation and use of the district's food resources. His authority also derived from his connection with the sky world, its gods, and their superhuman power to accomplish purposes. There was, therefore, a degree of sacredness associated with chiefs.

Social Control. There were no police. A chief's brothers or sons might act on his behalf to intimidate or attack someone who had offended him. But it was control of magical power, either by the chief or one his brothers or sons, that made improper conduct liable to punishment. Major craft specialists could also make ill those who violated the taboos of their craft. Finally, members of chiefly lineages and their close associates were likely to have knowledge of sorcery. All such knowledge gave punitive power to chiefs and important specialists. People stressed maintaining the appearance of propriety in behavior so as not to give just cause for offense.

Conflict. Within districts, conflict arose over land, succession to chiefship, theft, adultery, and avenging homicide. Between districts, it arose over attentions to local women by outside men, the status of one district as subordinate to another, and rights of access to fishing areas. Formal procedures for terminating conflict between districts involved payments of valuables and land by the losing side to the winning side. Fighting involved surprise raids and prearranged meetings on a field of battle. The principal weapons were slings, spears, and clubs. Firearms, introduced late in the nineteenth Century, were confiscated by German authorities in 1903. Martial arts included an elaborate system of throws and holds by which an unarmed man could kill, maim, or disarm an armed opponent.

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