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Navajo Clans

Understanding the Clan System is crucial to understanding who you are as a Navajo individual.

K’é refers to the establishment of familial and clan relationships and enables the Navajo individual to balance their own morality achieving kindness while following Navajo Tradition.

The Navajo child, traditionally, is introduced into the world by his or her mother as she declares the child’s clans.

The mother greets her baby by telling the maternal clan, he/she, is born into, followed by the paternal clan he/she is born for.

The baby is then given the maternal and paternal grandfather’s clans completing the greeting process.

The declaring of the clans puts responsibility of the child on those who are recognized in the child’s clans.

K’é promotes peace throughout the family and community and after the child’s clans are declared he/she is responsible for respecting and aiding those surrounding him/her especially representing the K’é concept.

Originally there were four clans created by Changing Woman but overtime clans have been added by non-navajo to recognize new American Indian Groups adopted by Navajo people.

The original four clans are Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House), Honágháanii (One Who Walks Around), Tó’dích’íinii (Bitter Water), and Hashł’ishnii (Mud Clan).

The additional groups are Tábąąhí (Water’s Edge), Táchii’nii (Red Running into the Water), Tsé níjíkiní (Cliff Dwellers/Honey Combed Rock), Tó’aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together), and Tsinaajini (Black Streaked Wood).

Clans play a huge part in identifying yourself to others to let them know who you are and where you are from.

Traditionally you are required to say Ya’at’eeh which translates to “It is good” reinforcing a positive attitude on life when greeting others followed by your name.

The format below can be used as an outline of a traditional Navajo greeting.

Yá’át’ééh shí éí (                      your name                       ) yíníshyé’.

(                                      Your mother’s clan                          ) nishłį́.

(                                      Your father’s clan                            ) ’éí bá shíshchíín.

(                            Your maternal grandfather’s clan              ) ’éí dashicheii.

(                            Your paternal grandfather’s clan               ) ’éí dashinálí.

I will use my Navajo introduction as an example:

Yá’át’ééh shí éí (                  Tyler Mitchell                  ) yíníshyé’.

(                                      Tó’dích’íinii                                     ) nishłį́.

(                                      Honágháanii                                     ) ’éí bá shíshchíín.

(                                  Ma’iideeshgiizhnii                               ) ’éí dashicheii.

(                                      Kinyaa’áanii                                     ) ’éí dashinálí.

We hope you leave here knowing more and hope that you can teach others about this important Navajo concept.


(Source: From Ch. 7 “K’é Clan Relationships” from the book, Diné Bizaad Bínáhoo’aah: Rediscovering the Navajo Language, by Evangeline Parsons Yazzie, Ed.D and Margaret Spears, Ph.D.)



8 Responses

  1. So long as anyone follow these tips, it certain to become great enjoyment for all engaged.
  2. Thank you
  3. I am confused. What is the clans again? What does mom’s clan. Dad’s clan and grand parents mean? My dad is born of four clans too. My mom is born of four clans too? And my grandparents too... so do I pull the first from all of them? Won’t that be the same all the way down or back? Please let me know so I can figure it out. Thank you.
    • Hello! Yes, you are correct! Every Navajo individual has their own four clans. You inherit each individual's (your mother's, father's, maternal grandfather's and paternal grandfather's) first clan. Your first clan is your mother's first clan which she inherited from her mother. Your second clan is your father's first clan, which he inherited from his mother. Your third clan is your maternal grandfather's first clan which he inherited from his mother. Your fourth clan is your paternal grandfather's first clan which he inherited from his mother. The clan system itself is often used to identify a person's origin and lineage. The clans also signify who is responsible for the baby's well-being (the mother, father and grandfathers). There are visual diagrams that can better explain how clans are inherited by these individuals and we will update this post if we ever do find it to help better explain the system. We hope this helps and we will update this post if it means we can make it more understandable and interactive for readers. Thank you for your questions and please feel free to ask more if need be. Ahéhee’, Thank you.
    • Your first clan is your moms first. Your second clan is from your dads first clan. Your third clan is your moms second clan, which is her dads clan. Your forth clan is your dads second clan, which is your dads dad clan. Therefore you have your four clans. -something off topic—> if you are a girl you always give your kids your first clan and the dads come second. If you’re a girl you always carry down your moms clan. If you’re a boy the spouse (girl) carries down the first clan... sooo who you are is your first clan but your born for your dads clan:):):)
    • Your 4 clans is the first clan of your mom, dad, cheii, and nali man
  4. I always wondered why we claim that the four named clans, are the "original", through researching our ancestral history, these four clans are NOT the original. Most original clans are gone, extincted, no more, unless you go north into some of the coastal athabaskan tribes, very few still exist. Majority of clans that now exist in the Navajo Tribe are from neighboring tribe descent, such as The Pueblos, Apaches, and Comanches. History tells, upon arrival in the southwest, over a thousands of years ago, the "Original" Athabaskan Tribe took on an intergration with tribes that were already in the area, before them. Since then, all original clans disappeared, replacing with most present clans, and still continues to expand. This is the 'Realism of Evalution' through out history. A lot of originals, since have been misinterpreted such as the word "Dine" it does NOT only mean people, but it refers to all living species, which includes, plants and animals, not just people.
  5. Hello. I am adopted and myself only have my fathers clans, due to the fact that my mother wasn't a native. Should I introduce myself only with my biological fathers and parental grandfathers clan or the four clans from my adopted family?

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