- This article is about various leaders of different tribal cultures. For the position in the Republic City Police Department, see Chief of Police.
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, and appears in certain clan groups in the Earth Kingdom.
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. The chief is assisted in making decisions by a small council of notables, such as the waterbending master Pakku.
The position of chief is hereditary and conveys significant social prestige. Water Tribe sagas tell of cases in the ancient past when there were violent disputes about the title of chief among siblings. The Northern Water Tribe gave the sons and daughters of the chief the title of prince or princess. 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.
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. Decisions in the south are made by a of Council of Elders comprising the most respected members of the southern community. 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.
By 171 AG, Unalaq had become chief of the Water Tribes after having his elder brother, Tonraq, banished for destroying a sacred forest. 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. Unalaq's children, Desna and Eska, took over the Northern chiefdom.
Earth Kingdom usage
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. The term is also used to refer to the leaders of the small, primitive tribes located in the northwestern river marshes of the kingdom.
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.
Chief of the Water Tribes
- Arnook (Water Tribe)
- Desna and Eska (Northern Water Tribe)
- Skiri (Water Tribe)
- Tonraq and Unalaq's father (Water Tribe)
- Tonraq (Southern Water Tribe)
- Unalaq (Water Tribe)
Water Tribe chieftains
- Hakoda (Chieftain of Wolf Cove; later Head Chieftain of the entire Southern Water Tribe)
- Qanitt (Chieftain of Whale Harbor)
- Sokka (Southern Water Tribe chieftain)
- Tana (minor Southern Water Tribe chieftain)
- Leader of the Gan Jin
- Leader of the Zhang
- Lin Yee (Leader of a tribe in the northwestern Earth Kingdom)