This system was feudal. Land ownership was fully separated from kin groups, with duties and obligations held by the commoner household and their overlord chiefs, and with the ultimate rights held by the chiefs. In Polynesia, this system developed only in Hawai‘i and Tonga by the time of European contact (Cordy, p. 53). There were clusters of households which lived next to each other. These had no name and were often described by referring to a dominant individual, such as Keone ma. Members of these clusters could have been related, brothers, sisters, etc. But they held their property separately as households. These resident groups did share a men’s house, the communal gathering spot for the group’s men. Here men gossiped, worked, and occasionally ate and slept. Here to they kept images associated with their ancestral spirits and made offerings (Cordy, p. 53). The largest social group in daily life was the community (sometimes given the label ahupua‘a, which is actually the name of the community’s land). At contact, this was not a corporate kin group. Rather it was the collection of resident commoner households given use rights to residence by the overlord chief, with the konohiki as his representative. A variety of community use and access rights existed: to water in irrigated lands, to reef and forest resources, to trails (Cordy, p. 54). A commoner’s daily life was split among the subsistence tasks of fishing, farming, tending livestock, and gathering shellfish; maintenance tasks such as collecting firewood; manufacturing of kappa, mats, fishhooks and tools; religious activities; leisure; and obligations to the chiefs. Full-time specialists may have existed, but they were usually attached to a high chief’s or the rulers court: feather cloak- and helmet-makers, warriors, navigators, priests, fishing specialists, to name but a few. Exceptions may have been sorcerers, medical specialists, and the like (Cordy, p. 54). Obligations to the chiefs were multiple. Every few days, labor was required in the local chief’s and overlord chief’s fields, the kø‘ele plots. Annual ahupua‘a taxes were gathered—usually in the form of bundles of bird feathers, kapa cloth, dried taro, other foodstuffs, pigs, and dogs. Nonperiodic demands were also made for labor on heiau, fishponds and paths; for warriors; and for foodstuffs when a high chief or ruler was in residence nearby, or when he needed food for special ceremonies. Strict respect behavior was owed to the chiefs and to the ceremonies linked to the national religious (Cordy, p. 54). Generally, the lot of the commoner was not unusually harsh, unless beset by drought, lava flows, a demanding chief, or repeated warfare. The land was generally bountiful, and unless gross violations of etiquette to chiefs occurred, life and land rights were safe (Cordy, p. 54).
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