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This article is about various leaders of different tribal cultures. For the position in the Republic City Police Department, see Chief of Police.

Arnook was the chief of the Northern Water Tribe during the final stages of the Hundred Year War.

A tribal chief, also known as a chieftain, is the leader of a tribal society. A chiefdom is the form of government in the Water Tribe and ancient Sun Warrior civilization,[1] and appears in certain clan groups in the Earth Kingdom.[2]

Water Tribe usage

The head of the Water Tribe government bears the title chief. Both tribes were governed by the chief of the Northern Water Tribe; the Southern Water Tribe, founded as a colony by northern settlers, was not governed by a separate ruler.[3] The chief is assisted in making decisions by a small council of notables, such as the waterbending master Pakku.[4]

The position of chief is hereditary[5] and conveys significant social prestige.[4] Water Tribe sagas tell of cases in the ancient past when there were violent disputes about the title of chief among siblings.[6] The Northern Water Tribe gave the sons and daughters of the chief the title of prince or princess.[4] Prior to the Hundred Year War, there were frequent marriages between the royal family and prominent southern clans: however, the disruption of the war and the isolation of the south led to the tribes drifting further apart, and the chief's actual role in the south was reduced to little more than a figurehead.[3]

The title "chief" is sometimes used for local leaders such as Hakoda in the context of the Southern Tribe; however, this is an informal title of respect and does not imply similar power due to the more egalitarian nature of southern society.[4] Decisions in the south are made by a of Council of Elders comprising the most respected members of the southern community.[3] Following the Hundred Year War, Hakoda was appointed Head Chieftain of the entire Southern Water Tribe, although his power remained much more limited than that of the northern Chief.[7]

By 171 AG, Unalaq had become chief of the Water Tribes after having his elder brother, Tonraq, banished for destroying a sacred forest.[8] As part of his drive for centralization, he attempted to increase his control over the mostly autonomous south, leading to the beginning of a civil war. However, after Unalaq was killed during Harmonic Convergence, the Southern Water Tribe became independent, with Tonraq as the newly elected chief.[9] Unalaq's children, Desna and Eska, took over the Northern chiefdom.[10]

Earth Kingdom usage

The Gan Jin leader was the chief of the Gan Jin tribe.

Certain Earth Kingdom tribes and clans, such as the Gan Jin and Zhang, elect members of their community to act as their chiefs. These chiefs typically make important decisions for the groups and serve as repositories of tribal lore.[2] The term is also used to refer to the leaders of the small, primitive tribes located in the northwestern river marshes of the kingdom.[11]

Sun Warrior usage

The Sun Warriors are an ancient civilization who first discovered firebending from the dragons. Living in secrecy near the ruins of their once-thriving city, where they retain their unique cultural and philosophical traits, the warriors are led by a chief, who aspires to preserve the tribe's cultural heritage and protect it by maintaining its secrecy.[1]

Known chiefs

Chief of the Water Tribes

Water Tribe chieftains

Earth Kingdom

Fire Nation


  1. 1.0 1.1 O'Bryan, John (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (July 15, 2008). "The Firebending Masters". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 13. Nickelodeon.
  2. 2.0 2.1 O'Bryan, John (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (May 20, 2005). "The Great Divide". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 11. Nickelodeon.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Brian Konietzko's Tumblr (September 18, 2013). Retrieved on September 29, 2013.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 18, 2005). "The Waterbending Master". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
  5. From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Character: Chief Arnook.
  6. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Eight, "Ancient History". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  7. 7.0 7.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). North and South Part One (September 27, 2016), Dark Horse Comics.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Unalaq. Nickelodeon (August 28, 2013). Archived from the original on September 2, 2013. Retrieved on August 28, 2013.
  9. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (November 22, 2013). "Light in the Dark". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 14. Nickelodeon.
  10. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Graham, Ian. (June 27, 2014). "The Earth Queen". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 3. Nickelodeon.
  11. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (October 21, 2005). "The Deserter". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 16. Nickelodeon.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 53.
  13. Legend of Korra - mobile trivia game (September 10, 2013). Retrieved on September 10, 2013.
  14. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 52.
  15. Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Zwyer, Melchior (director). (July 11, 2014). "In Harm's Way". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 4. Nickelodeon.

See also