—chiefless, adj. —chiefship, n./cheef/, n.1. the head or leader of an organized body of people; the person highest in authority: the chief of police.2. the head or ruler of a tribe or clan: an Indian chief.3. (cap.) U.S. Army. a title of some advisers to the Chief of Staff, who do not, in most instances, command the troop units of their arms or services: Chief of Engineers; Chief Signal Officer.4. Informal. boss or leader: We'll have to talk to the chief about this.5. Heraldry.a. the upper area of an escutcheon.b. an ordinary occupying this area.6. in chief,a. in the chief position; highest in rank (used in combination): editor in chief; commander in chief.b. Heraldry. in the upper part of an escutcheon.adj.7. highest in rank or authority: the chief priest; the chief administrator.8. most important; principal: his chief merit; the chief difficulty.adv.9. Archaic. chiefly; principally.Ant. 7. subordinate.
* * *▪ political leaderpolitical leader of a social group, such as a band, tribe, or confederacy of tribes. Among many peoples, chiefs have very little coercive authority and depend on community consensus for implementing recommendations; often a number of recognized chiefs form a tribal chiefs' council. Among more advanced preliterate societies, there may be a single paramount tribal chief with coercive authority.Popular Western literature is replete with mistaken notions about chieftains. In loose usage in the West, the word has been applied to any famous nonwhite war leader or orator who frequently appeared in negotiations with whites. Such a man may well have been a leader in his community, but he need not have been a chief. For example, the Sauk Native American leader Black Hawk, who in 1832 led a band of Sauk and Fox in the Black Hawk War, was not a member of the Sauk chiefs' council and, despite his prominence as a warrior and spokesman, was never recognized as a chief by the Sauk tribe.
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