Power of Ba Na patriarchs

(VOVWORLD) - Hamlet chiefs of ethnic groups in the Central Highlands are called patriarchs. They used to be brave fighters or role models in production. When they are old, villagers venerate them as patriarchs for their profound knowledge of life and production and their ability to rally and unite the community.
Power of Ba Na patriarchs - ảnh 1 Patriarch A Huynh is a skilled bamboo weaver. (photo: baokontum.com.vn)

Ethnic groups living in the high mountains and deep forests of the Central Highlands depend on nature. They observe many religious customs and rituals such as worshiping genies of the Sun, Fire, Water, Mountain, River, Forest, and Rice. They pray to them for protection, favorable weather, and bumper crops.

Life in the forest requires people to be hardy and united to protect themselves and overcome difficulties. Outstanding leaders of the community are honored as patriarchs. Patriarch is a unifying center who guides community activities.

In a Ba Na hamlet, a patriarch is a symbol of justice and trust. Villagers trust and obey his judgement. Bui Van Dao, former Director of the Institute of Social Sciences of the Central Highlands, said: “According to ancient Ba Na custom, the patriarch was a member of a Conciliation board, who decided many village questions. They handed out punishments so violators could learn from their mistakes.”

The patriarch is not a genie, but a spiritual support for the community. At night, people often come to the patriarch’s stilt house to ask his advice about weather, production methods, and relationship ethics.

The Ba Na depend on village norms to guide their behaviour and punish violators. Mrs. H’Dam said: “If there was a problem, the Conciliation board gathered to discuss it. The patriarch analysed the issue and proposed a solution. If they all agreed, he would make a decision.”

Mr. Dao said the Ba Na’s Conciliation board no longer exists, but the patriarch retains his role. He connects the past and the present. Central Highlands provinces promote the role of patriarchs and other prestigious individuals to strengthen the grassroots political system. In addition to their role in religious and cultural activities, the village chiefs help the local administration publicize Party and State policies.