The birth of the lakou would occur when a founding ancestor settled a piece of land and raised children there, divvying up and passing down the tract of land through the generations. Within the lakou structure, children inherit land bi-lineally, with sons and daughters inheriting equally. Nearly from birth, children of the lakou become property owners with a shared stake in the perpetuation of the lakou. Each child’s umbilical cord would be buried in the courtyard, and a fruit tree planted upon it. The fruit produced would then be used to sustain that child, for example to buy clothes and other necessities as he grew up. In this way, the tree would form a foundation for future investment, likely in the form of land or livestock. The process of inheritance within the lakou exists entirely outside of state control. The state had no part in regulating land ownership and transfers within the lakou. Commonly, a single member of the lakou, usually the most senior member (see Lakou Hierarchy), would hold the formal title to the land.
The lakou practice of decentralized ownership is meant to prevent the consolidation of wealth into the hands of any one person. This goal, again, has its roots in Haiti’s plantation history. There is a clear understanding that land ownership is tantamount to control, and so the lakou structure aims to prevent large tracts of land from being owned by a single entity who could thereby gain control over the community. While transfers within the extended family were allowed, and governed by consensus, sales to outsiders were strictly taboo. This mindset, instilled in lakou children from birth, takes the name “mentalité lakou”—yard mentality, denoting a fear of outsiders. Over the course of history, the lakou’s xenophobia has proven largely successful in protecting rural communities from outside interests.
Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Metropolitan, 2012.Google Books. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=drU3HlesN5kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=haiti+the+aftershocks+of+history&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZU6fT4nvHpOm8gSi4sSPAQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=haiti%20the%20aftershocks%20of%20history&f=false
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