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- "The Nine Ruling Families are like any other families. Blood and merit create siblings and cousins and ranking distants. Some are released, others are rematched, others are born to trial. The same as any other family."
- "At various times over the centuries there have been as many as twelve and as few as three."
- ―Mitth'raw'nuruodo on the history of the Ruling Families
In social and constitutional terms, the Ruling Families were an oligarchy which operated above the level of the professional bureaucracy and the (at least partially) democratic legislature. Each Family was responsible for a certain sector of Chiss government, and each had formal representatives with titles such as Aristocra and Syndic; but within each family, preeminent power and status was vested in the hands of a hierarchy ranked, in order, as brothers and sisters (collectively siblings), cousins and ranking distants. While it seems that these titles often indicated literal blood relationships, they could also be awarded on merit, and and while each Family was ultimately a kin-group, they also contained adoptive members who were not born into the oligarchy. For example, all Chiss Expansionary Defense Force officers were classed as merit adoptives of a Ruling Family for the duration of their service, while being named as Trial-born of a family enabled the most able commoners to aim for permanent 'matching' to one of the Families - a process that seems to have involved marriage to an eligible member of the Family; in rare cases, a Trial-born matched to the Family might even secure the status of ranking distant.
According to sources made available through New Republic channels during the Yuuzhan Vong War, the Chiss Ruling Families traced their origins to the distant past, before the onset of the ice age in which Csilla had been gripped throughout reliably-recorded Chiss history, and it was implied that every contemporary Chiss individual had a blood relationship with at least one of the Families. The same sources, however, made clear that the information available at this time about pre-glaciation Csilla took the form of contradictory legends, and it is not clear how reliable the claims for the antiquity of the Families could therefore be. Secondly, and especially bearing in mind the dubious nature of this first claim, the idea that all five trillion contemporary Chiss could then trace some form of biological descent to no more than nine pairs of historical ancestors must prima facie be treated with extreme caution.
Over the course of recorded history, the number of Ruling Families was said to have fluctuated between three and twelve, but in contacts with the Chiss in both 27 BBY and 22 ABY, it appeared that the number of Ruling Families stood nine, and they were known formally as the Nine Ruling Families. However, within a few years of the latter date, it was said that the number of Ruling Families had been reduced to four, identified as House Csapla, House Nuruodo, House Inrokini, and House Sabosen. This information seems to stem from the same New Republic sources mentioned above, and it too could also be considered suspect, but it was apparently confirmed by Jagged Fel shortly before the Jedi mission to Csilla in 29 ABY.
According to the account offered by Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano in 35 ABY, the Third Vagaari War had caused a serious labor shortage among the Chiss (whether through casualties or simply due to conscription), and they turned to the insectoid Killiks for help, and hired several Nests as workers. Steps were taken to prevent any Chiss becoming Joiners, but these were sabotaged, leading to the absorption of two Families into the Nests, while three others were unable to retain their position without the continued use of Killik labor.
Chaf'orm'bintrano claimed that this situation led to a "disagreement" in which the four other Families, assisted by Baron Fel and the Household Phalanx, removed the three Killik-dependent lineages from power. However, there are some uncertainties about the nature of this account. Firstly, it seems unlikely that there really were three wars between the Chiss and the Vagaari; secondly, the Aristocra himself supposedly belonged to the Chaf family, one of the lineages not mentioned in the lists of the four surviving families; his remarks also suggested that Baron Fel's family had adopted at least some of the trappings of a Ruling Family in their own right, and he mentioned that Fel and his troops had destroyed the family of Commander Ina'ganet'nuruodo, whose name suggests membership of the supposedly surviving House Nuruodo.
Families and their roles according to New Republic sourcesEdit
- "Just as our families are defined by their function in society, so are we defined by our roles as representatives of those families. We are here before you not as people, but as the beginning and end points of a decision-making process."
- ―Unidentified Chiss Ruling Family member
- Csapla (from Cioral), resource management and colonial affairs
- Nuruodo (from Naporar), military and foreign policy
- Inrokini (from Csaus), Industry, non-military science, and communications
- Sabosen (from Sposia), law and order, health, education
Other known former Ruling FamiliesEdit
- "You do not need to know who acts on behalf of the Chiss. We represent everyone."
- ―Unidentified Chiss Ruling Family member
- Star Wars: The Old Republic (Mentioned only)
- Outbound Flight
- Vision of the Future (First mentioned)
- Survivor's Quest
- The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic II: Refugee (First appearance)
- Dark Nest I: The Joiner King
- Dark Nest III: The Swarm War (Mentioned only)
- Legacy of the Force: Tempest (Mentioned only)
- Legacy of the Force: Invincible (Mentioned only)
- The University of Sanbra Guide to Intelligent Life: The Chiss"—Star Wars Gamer 5 "
- Alien Anthology
- Ultimate Alien Anthology
- The Essential Atlas