Navajo Clans

Navajo Clans
June 26, 2017 Tyler Mitchell
In Uncategorized

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.)



Comments (13)

  1. Marylin 4 years ago

    So long as anyone follow these tips, it certain to become great
    enjoyment for all engaged.

  2. Arlinda 4 years ago

    Thank you

  3. Shawna 4 years ago

    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.

    • Author
      Tyler Mitchell 4 years ago

      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.

    • Miah 4 years ago

      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:):):)

    • Martha 3 years ago

      Your 4 clans is the first clan of your mom, dad, cheii, and nali man

  4. tony 4 years ago

    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. Ajei 3 years ago

    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?

  6. I need help. I don’t know my own clan.

  7. Brady Whitehorse 3 years ago

    An older guy is fourth clan is To dich’ii’nii and my first clan is To dich’ii’nii , What relation or what would I call him?

    • Gabby 2 years ago

      Cheii is grandpa Masani is grandma, your grandparents on your Mom’s Side. Nálí man, Nálí woman – Nálí’s are your grandparents on your Dad’s side.

      Your mother’s clan (1st, primary clan) (nishłį́ – I am). This is the clan you will pass on to your kids. If your a woman this is the clan you, your kids will pass on, if you have daughters and granddaughters this clan remains the same. If you a man this is the second clan for your kids. Because this is your primary clan anyone that has the same primary clan is your sister or brother, your primary clan is someone else’s secondary clan they are your cousin and your primary clan is someone else’s 3rd or 4th clan they are grandparents, Cheii/Masani (3rd) or Nali (4th)
      Your father’s clan (2nd clan) (’bá shíshchíín – born for). 2nd clan they are your cousin, for your kids their grandparent (Woman -Cheii, Man – Nali)
      Your maternal grandfather’s clan (3nd clan) (dashicheii). 3rd clan your Cheii/Masani (Grandpa/grandma on mother side) This clan doesn’t pass on. People who have this clan as there main clan you are there Cheii (man)/Masani(woman) (Grandparent)
      Your paternal grandfather’s clan (4nd clan) (dashinálí). 4th clan your Nálí (Grandma/grandpa on father side) This clan doesn’t pass on. People who have this clan as there main clan you are there Nálí (Grandparent)

      Traditional people who have a better understand that are older will a tendency to call you Momma/Daddy if your primary clan is there primary or secondary. For example I have a niece that is related on my dad’s side of the family my secondary clan is her primary clan and her son, I call my little daddy because he has the same clans as my father and he younger than my dad so therefore little daddy. Now my niece’s husband is my brother because of his clan but I prefer nephew-in-law. It does and will get confusing but as long as you know and understand your clans and know your parents you can go deeper, if your limited on information on that, well your just gonna have to go with what you have. In Navajo families, there is no such thing as “being removed, not even by divorced.” All your parents siblings/cousins are simply your Aunt and Uncle and there kids are either your sisters/brother or cousins. There kids are your niece/nephews, There kids are your grandkids. Your grandparents, sibling are just more grandparents, with more Aunts/Uncle, Nieces/Nephews, etc.

      There is no possible way to determine Aunt or Uncle unless that person is significantly related to your parents. Otherwise they’re either sister, brother, cousin, Cheii/Masani or Nali.

      If you have parents that are non-native, then you fill in with the ethnic translated into Navajo if there is a word for it. For example, White, Angel, Caucasian is bilagáana, If your mom is white, you would say I am bilagáana born for Táchii’nii (Red Running into the Water), dashicheii is bilagáana, dashinálí is Tó’aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together). or Vice Versa. I am Táchii’nii (Red Running into the Water) born for bilagáana. dashicheii is Tó’aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together), dashinálí is bilagáana. Meaning that your mom or dad and their parents are Caucasian. In some cases, Your cheii and nali could be bilagáana, or something else and your main clan and secondary clan are Navajo.

  8. Claudia 2 years ago

    Hello, I’ve been doing more research into my ancestral roots. I was born to a Navajo paternal line and a Mexican maternal line. However, my father was absent in my life. I’m still trying to learn my language though and would like to ask, how would I go about finding my original clans? I know very minimal details about my paternal grandparents, just that they became Jehovah’s Witness’ and gave up their culture, which makes things difficult.

  9. Dida 1 year ago

    I have a Bilagaana in my Navajo class, he is interested in introducing himself in Navajo. How would I say Swedish, Hungarian and British in Navajo?

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