Wantoat - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Prior to European contact Wantoat society had no class distinctions, although the most successful warrior was the most influential person. A man's strength was considered to be evident in the number of his children, so nearly one-third of the households were polygamous. With European influence and the growth of individualism, a person's status is frequently determined by material possessions, particularly motor vehicles.

Political Organization. The clans are the largest political units, each led by an elder who, in the past, demonstrated prowess in battle and successfully performed the religious rites. Marital connections between clans entailed mutual support in times of conflict. Prior to European contact, villages were small with clan members generally living in more than one village. As a result, there were occasional alliances between villages for ceremonial purposes or for battle. With the trend to larger settlements, modern villages usually consist of two such clans that cooperate in economic ventures. Political control is exercised by a committee of the most respected clan elders.

Social Control. The responsibilities of kin relationships and the dependence of members upon their clan for support entailed an acceptance of the clan's values and social constraints. Men traditionally kept their cultic ritual secret, and today men readily admit that by this secrecy they were able to control the women. With the arrival of the Europeans came the cessation of hostilities, greater mobility, private wage earnings, and the demise of the cultic religion—changes that have made individuals more independent and less responsive to the wishes of other clan members.

Conflict. Loyalty was primarily to one's clan, so that Wantoat society was heavily fragmented. An externally imposed peace has resulted in much latent hostility, particularly in matters of landownership.

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