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.)