Wovan - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The social system is characterized by a great deal of flexibility despite an ideology of patrilineal Descent. The rule of parallel-cousin ("sister") marriage provides added flexibility in terms of landownership and access to Forest resources. Homesteads in many, though not all, cases recognize their membership in larger landholding units and their consequent kinship with members of other homesteads with whom they co-own hunting and gardening lands. Genealogical depth is shallow, with only six of forty-eight "big houses" claiming relatedness through connections as distant as or more distant than father's father's father. Kinship and social relations are forged by a continuous flow of gifts and counter gifts, by cooperative gardening relationships, and by the construction of ties of partnership either through ritual or exchange.

Political Organization. The Wovan lack the big-man phenomenon so prominent in the central highlands. To them, all men (especially those who have completed their initiation cycle) are big-men ( numbe diib ). Despite the fact that some men are recognized as better hunters, some as better traders, and some as better orators, shared initiation and other Experiences are used to ensure that men continue to regard each other, and behave in relation to each other, as equals. Elders have authority over juniors and males in general have authority over females, but the dominant character of the political organization is egalitarian. The homestead (hram diib, or "big house") group was the only unit over which any particular Individual could claim authority.

Social Control. While it was expected that members of the same minimal lineage would not normally use violence to solve disputes, traditionally there were never any restrictions that extended the peace community to the whole Wovan People. Disputes could be solved peacefully by public moots wherein anyone might express an opinion. Restitution payments were offered after public opinion had been heard and evaluated. In cases where the defendant suspected that the punishment would be violent, he or she could choose flight and take up residence with kin among the Kopon or Aramo people.

Conflict. Internal and external conflict took the form of small-scale ambushes and retaliatory raids. Permanent relations of enmity existed between particular Wovan kin groups and some Wovan would align themselves with non-Wovan against their Wovan enemies if the opportunity arose. Raiding ceased immediately after contact. The Wovan assisted both Kopon and Aramo neighbors in conflicts against more distant people.

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