- "Some weraks come and go. Some last as long as metal."
A werak is the primary social and political structure of the Banuk tribe in Horizon Zero Dawn. Rather than a centralized government, the Banuk live in small groups called weraks and rely on tribal history and lore for guidance.
While the power structure varies to some extent, each werak is led by a chieftain and a shaman.
The chieftain has the greatest authority in the werak. They are in charge of leading hunts and determining admittance into the werak, among other tasks.
To become a chieftain, one must throw down their spear in front of the current chieftain, challenging them to a test of skill. The chieftain had the right to refuse unless the contender is backed by a significant portion of the werak. If the challenger completes the trial first, they become the new chieftain. It is possible for an outlander to perform this challenge, although it is incredibly rare (Aloy is the only known non-Banuk to become a chieftain).
- "A shaman should always have the ear of their chieftain."
Shamans serve as the werak's religious leaders. Their duties involve tracking machine herds, divination, providing advice to their chieftain, preserving the Banuk culture, and any other spiritual rituals. Unlike chieftains, shamans may take apprentices under their wing. Shamans and their apprentices are the only ones in the werak who are allowed to harvest parts from machines, due to the Banuk's belief in the divine nature of machines.
The most notable shamans are granted entry into an elite group called the Conclave.
Weraks can vary vastly in terms of structure and culture, but they generally adhere to Banuk cultural norms and rules. Despite the familial nature of the werak, the Banuk value of self-reliance is still strongly practiced by individuals.
Banuk are not born into a specific werak, but are rather accepted based on completing tasks demanded by the werak. As rank is determined by skill and respect, the Banuk are the only known tribe where gender is irrelevant to position.
- Aratak's werak (unnamed)
- Nukoni's Arrows/Scars of the North/Shattered Hearts
- Owl's Watch
- Thunder's Daughters (disbanded)
- White Teeth
- Kopilai's werak (unnamed)