Clan affiliation was inherited through the mothers line only, membership was determined at birth, it was only natural that the child belonged to the clan of the mother since she was certain of her birth child whereas the identity of the father might, in some cases, be less certain. The clan provided many important functions including child care for orphans and the destitute, hospitality for visiting clan members from other towns and most important, the avenging of wrongs committed against the clan members before the ancient law of blood revenge was abolished in by the Cherokee National Government on September 11, 1808. The act of abolishment was seen to have advanced the Cherokees in civilization, and it was universally accepted by all tribes.
Clan membership was essential to one's existence as a human being within a Cherokee society because of the protection of the kinship system. Since clans were divided into white or peace clans and red or war clans, a Cherokee clan determined a person's political alignment and his role in society. Kinship, through the laws of the clan, governed social relationships, dictated possible marriage partners, designated friends, designated enemies and regulated behavior through the system such as which kinsmen had to be respected and with which kinsmen one could be intimate.
When a clan member was visiting other nearby or distant towns, he was still considered family. The clans were considered close family. The dramatic decline in clan affiliation occurred during the middle of the 20th century (1940-1969) Today on the Qualla Boundary of Western North Carolina there are still a few Cherokees who can identify their clan because it has been handed down through the generations. If the clan affiliation is not known, it is very rare that it will be identified. The task is made very difficult because there was no record of clan membership kept on file.
The Wolf Clan is the largest clan and the most prominent clan, providing most of the war chiefs. The wolf clan are Keepers of the wolf and the only clan who could kill a wolf. The Clan color of the AniWahya is Red.
The Blue or Panther Clan made blue medicine from a special blue plant to keep our children well. The were also known as the Wildcat Clan. The Clan color for the Ani Sahoni is Blue.
The Long Hair Clan
The Long Hair Clan are also known as Twister Clan, Hair Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan. Those belonging to this Clan wore their hair in elaborate hairdos, walked in a proud and vain manner twisting their shoulders. Peace chiefs are usually from this clan and wore a white feather robe. The Clan color for the AniGilohi is Yellow.
The Bird Clan are the Keepers of the birds and and they are our messengers. This clan was skilled in using blowguns and snares for bird hunting. The Clan color for the AniTsisqua is Purple.
The Paint Clan made red paint and were sorcerers and medicine men. The Clan color for the AniWodi is White.
The Deer Clan are the Keepers and hunters of the Deer, and are known as fast runners. The Clan color for the AniKawi is Brown.
Wild Potato Clan
The Wild Potato Clan are also known as the Bear Clan, Raccoon Clan or Blind Savannah Clan. They were known to gather the wild potato plants in swamps along streams to make flour or bread for food. The Clan color for the AniGatogewi is Green.
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