Leadership in Public Arenas

Male 'Enana traditionally occupied the powerful roles of haka'iki "chiefs," tau'a "shamans," tuhuka "craft specialists," and toa "warriors." However, women also had a chance to occupy some (though not all) of these roles and/or manifest their tapu status in public ways. Women occasionally fought as warriors; more frequently they became tau'a. They were sometimes accorded first-born rights within chiefly landholding families and were sometimes recognized as ha'atepeiu "chiefess" (though not haka'iki). According to Thomas (1987b, 1990), the post-hierarchical nature of 'Enana politics gave women a chance to manipulate their tapu, their wealth, their kin ties, and their skills with oratory and charisma, much as men might.

In certain ways, then, women can be said to have suffered a setback under French rule. Until the second half of the 20th century, the French sociopolitical system put men at the head of the family and the polity. Nonetheless, since contact, women have occasionally been appointed or, more recently, elected to the role of haka'iki "mayor" and have taken on some leadership roles in religious, cultural, and educational associations.

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