The second characteristic of the Indian chieftainship — generosity — appears to be more than a duty: it is a bondage. Ethnologists have observed that among the most varied peoples of South America this obligation to give, to which the chief is bound, is experienced by the Indians as a kind of right to subject him to a continuous looting. And if the unfortunate leader tries to check this flight of gifts, he is immediately shorn of all prestige and power. Francis Huxley writes of the Urubu: “It is the business of a chief to be generous and to give what is asked of him. In some Indian tribes you can always tell the chief because he has the fewest possessions and wears the shabbiest ornaments. He has had to give away everything else.”
'The situation is similar among the Nambicuara, described by Claude Levi-Strauss: “Generosity plays a fundamental role in determining the degree of popularity the new chief will enjoy ....” Sometimes the chief, exasperated by the repeated demands, cries out: “All gone! No more giving! Let someone else give in my place!” It would be pointless to multiply examples of this kind, for this relationship of Indians to their chief is unchanging across the entire continent (Guiana, upper Xingu, and so on). Greed and power are incompatible; to be a chief it is necessary to be generous.