Land is a focal point for social organization in this island nation. All Marshallese have land rights as part of a clan, or jowi, that owes allegiance to an Iroij (chief), is supervised by the Alap (clan head), and supported by the Rijerbal (workers). The Iroij have ultimate control of such things as land tenure, resource use and distribution, and dispute settlement. The Alap supervises the maintenance of lands and daily activities. The Rijerbal are responsible for all daily work on the land including cleaning, farming, and construction activities. The society is matrilineal and, therefore, land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother.
With the land to tie families together into clans, family gatherings tend to become big events. One of the most significant family events is the kemem, or first birthday of a child, where relatives and friends come together to celebrate with feasting and song.