There are four social classes in traditional Rukai (Drekay) society: chiefs, nobles, aristocracy, and commoners. All are adopted by inheritance and follow the Chief’s leadership. Each social class has different rights and obligations, and the children’s social status can be changed through marriage.
1. Family and Marriage Rukai society is formed by family, with the first son as the successor of both parents’ families, including the family houses and the family name. Other children must move out of the family after marriage. If there is no son in the family, the daughter will find a husband to inherit the property. Monogamy is practiced. Rukai people emphasize marriage between families of the same social class. That is, they will first consider the social class of the bride or the groom, and “same-class marriage” is acceptable by most Rukai.
2. Village and Chief A village is a regional organization formed by one settlement or several neighboring settlements for purposes including politics, economy, military, education, and social welfare. In Rukai tradition, the chiefdom is inheritable. There are other professional elder groups, like the marudrange (Chief’s messenger), family representative, military strategist, artisan, siabakale (swordsman), taraivigi (wizard/witch), and bariakalai (priest), supporting different community needs. Although a Chief is very powerful, he will discuss community affairs with village people before implementation.
3. Social Class System There are four social classes in traditional Rukai society: chiefs, nobles, aristocracy, and commoners. The chief and the nobles have higher social status and more land resources. They expropriate land and forest taxes from the village and have the right to get body tattoos and use carvings in their family houses. As a social class between the nobles and the commoners, the aristocracy refers to village people with military merits or special skills. They enjoy privileges, such as tax exemption and can wearing garlands, granted by the chief. Influenced by the first-son succession system, aristocracy is the heredity of the family’s first son, while other children are commoners. Before engaging in any work, such as logging, marriage, crossing, and brewing wine, the commoners must pay a tax to the chief. After specific ceremonies and paying specific taxes, commoners will be granted privileges such as getting body tattoos, use of lily ornaments, clothing patterns, and some names.