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Characteristics of Tribal Society

A tribe is a large group of people that is distinguished from other groups mainly through its higher population density and its greater sedentary lifestyle. The tribal people also practice Hunting and gathering. In addition animal husbandry and crop cultivation are also undertaken. Hence a specific territorial affiliation and integration obtains. The tribe inhabits and remains within a definite and common topography. In the absence of a common topography the tribe would also loose its other characteristic features as community functions, language and culture etc.

The members of the tribe possess consciousness of mutual unity as the psychological element is an essential characteristic of the tribe.

The members of a tribe speak a common language as it generates a sense of communal unity among them. It sets them apart from other tribes. Each tribe is thus conscious of its homogenous ethnic identity.

The members of the tribe generally marry into their own group but I the changing socio-economic environment they are marrying outside their tribes as well.

A major factor in community is the tie of blood relationship between the members. They have faith in their having descended from a common real or mythical ancestor and hence believe in blood relationship with other members. Kinship bonds play an important role in tribal organization. Descent groups such as lineages and clans are generally well developed.

Each descent group often owns property jointly and corporately. Each descent group is usually exogamous. The enforcement of tribal endogamy (the rule which stipulates that a member of the tribe or any other group for that matter should marry another member from within that particular tribe itself) helps to maintain tribal identity.

The recognition of leadership is often present although there may not be a well-developed hierarchical political system. For protecting the members, political organization within a tribe is established and all authority of administration is vested in one person or group of persons. A tribal committee is formed to render assistance in the form of advice to the tribal chief. They usually look after the wellbeing of the members. A tribe's cohesion and integrity may come under threat from within as well as from outside. During such times authority and leadership become crucial in maintaining intra-tribal harmony and in directing inter-tribal warfare. Each tribe's tradition and lore are distinct with its characteristic habits, customs, art, religious beliefs and so on.

Each tribe has its own political organization that maintains harmony and avoids notes of discord among its members. They usually negotiate with the political power of the state.

The tribal political and social organization is based on religion because social and political laws become inviolable once they are granted religious sanctity and recognition. The authority of common religion is an important characteristic of the tribe. Life-cycle ceremonies and rituals are often given prime importance among the tribal people.

A tribe is constituted of many clans with laws of mutual reciprocity among its members. Some of the striking features that are present in many tribes are the presence of groupings such as age groups, dormitories, and secret societies and totemic groups.