Proto-nationalism refers to a nation or entity that places emphasis on social and political structures as established by the natives of a particular region. The people in such areas maintain a deep sense of devotion to their nation and sociopolitical systems.
Cargo cults can be seen as proto-nationalist movements because they were established by indigenous people who were trying to resist colonial activities within their region. Cargo cults were established within communities that practiced wealth sharing as a symbol of prestige; the more wealth an individual had to distribute among the people the more important they became in the society. The coming of the colonialists with vast amounts of “cargo” meant that the indigenous people were losing their prestige. To restore their importance within their social structure, the indigenous people began to mimic activities performed by the colonizing groups which they believed to be rituals that attracted wealth. Apart from seeking wealth, cargo cults were trying to restore their social relationships that were threatened by the colonialists.