Encyclopedia Article


An interrelated social group, whose connections derive from parentage as well as kinship. For different indigenous groups, clan structures develop and are expressed uniquely. For example, in Navajo culture, which is matrilineal and matrilocal, after the four original clans were established by Changing Woman, women who came into the tribe's membership either brought a clan name with them, or were assigned a clan on acceptance into the tribe. Some were existing clans from other tribes, while others were created out of circumstance. Today, the total number of clans represented is calculated in to be over one hundred and forty, from twenty-one major groups. K'é—the Navajo clan system—is the strength of the People. It keeps the Navajo people together.

For the Zuni and other pueblo communities, however, clans and kinship are partly expressed through membership in various kiva and medicine societies, although this is not exclusively true, as one can be elected into some kiva societies, while one is born into others. The Zuni clan system overlaps and interlocks with kinship and religious systems to enforce, regulate, and, to a degree, control the socioreligious behavior patterns of the Zuni.

Photo Credit: 

K’é – Diné (Navajo) Kinship System, Rough Rock School Press 2013

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