It is said that the Kanakanavu people used to have an hereditary system for Ra’Ani (chief), Kara’Ani (deputy chief), Vasʉ (marshal), and ’Ʉrʉvʉ (priest), one of each. The “elder council” formed by Mamarurang (the elders) was the highest political and legislative body. Today, the Kanakanavu people have 17 family names: ’Amunuana, Ka’angaina, Kapuana, Ka’aviana, Kakapiana, Napaniana, Numangiana, Navirangana, Na’uracana, Kacaupuana, Kanapaniana, Kanapangana, Na’upana, ’Ikuana, Namaitana, Naturingana, and ’Utungana. Chinese family names include:Hsiao, Cheng, Weng, Peng, Chiang, Yang, Chung, Wang, Yu, Tsai, Kung, Fan, Lan, Shih, Chen, Chin, Hsieh. There are 17 traditional men’s names: ’Akori, ’Angai, ’Apio, ’Avia, ’Atai, Riau, Pani, Pa’ʉ, Pori, ’Uku, Mu’u, ’Una, Piori, ’Uangʉ, Pusinga, Cimseeng, ’Upa; and 16 women’s names: ’Akuan, ’Ari(e), ’Apu’u, Kai, Kau, Kini, Kiua, Kuatʉ, Na’u, Rangui, Paicʉ, Pi’i, Vanau, ’Usu, ’Uva, Savoo.
In the Kanakanavu language, a family house is called “tanasa”, and a family is called “cani pininga”, meaning “a square”, referring to “people living under the same roof”. In other ethnic groups (e.g. Tsou or Bunun), there are clear definitions for a clan, a household, and a family. There are sub-groups within a main ethnic group and branches under a sub-group, forming a hierarchical structure. The Kanakanavu people form an ethnic group through parallel households. In Kanakanavu society, every family has a marangʉ, the family head. Traditionally, the marangʉ must be a man, i.e. patrilineality. Community affairs are shared through the nature of laborworks. Men are responsible for heavy and dangerous works, while women are in charge of house chores and sewing. Both men and women may engage in farming.