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Friday, March 17, 2006

The Traditional Hierarchy in a To'abaita Society

During the heathen days all the people in To'abaita lived in the highlands (Tolo) of North Malaita in order to worship our dead ancestors (Koko'o) and gods (Thufa abu). In our traditional belief, we thought that by staying close to our ancestral spirits (Akalo) we would be blessed with wealth (inotoa), good health(to luka la), and power (ramoa)to fight against our enemies (Ma'ali mae). Therefore it was important to have a traditional community structure in order to fulfill these beliefs.

At the top of the hierarchy, there is the Aofia or the 'Big Man'. In To'abaita tradition, to be an Aofia, one has to accumulate a certain amount of wealth. Wealth comes in many forms such as having more shell money (tafuliae) or having many pigs (botho) or having big gardens of food (o'ole), marrying several wives etc. In the local expression people say "you have to show yourself" to be called an Aofia. He is the 'chief' of the tribe so to speak. This is a very influential person in the tribe. He can order the 'Ramo' (warrior) to kill someone whom he dislikes or can solve problems in the tribe or stop quarrels. He is a very important person in society because he has wealth.

Next in-line is the Wanenifoa or the pagan priest. He is the one who communicates with the devils about events in the tribe (kule'e wane). He burnt sacrifices to the devils, usually a pig, before warriors go to war. Or, if someone is sick, that person will go to the Wanenifoa to find out why the devils are angry in causing the sick. In our traditional belief, peoples lives are guided by super natural beings. If someone disobeys them, they will make that person sick or bring bad luck to him or her.

Third in the strata are the Ramos or warriors. These are the people that provide security and protect the tribe from outside aggression and enemies. They also have Ramo leaders, like commanders in modern military battalion. However, the Ramo and Wanenifoa only follow what the Aofia says. Finally,under the Ramo comes the ordinary people of the tribe. Their primary role is to provide support to the above three important people.

Source: Partial texts from PF Net

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