Matrilineal Clans Of The Cherokees

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When the Europeans began their invasion of the Americas, the Cherokees were an agricultural people whose villages could be found throughout the American Southeast. Cherokee families were based on matrilineal clans. Matrilineal clans are extended family groups with names, tradition, and oral history. Membership in each clan is through the mother: you belong to your mother’s clan. To be without a clan was to be without human identity. The clan is also exogamous, which means people cannot marry a person from their own clan. With regard to the Cherokee family, historian John Finger, in his book The Eastern Band of Cherokees 1819-1900, says: “Most incomprehensible of all to non-Indians was the Cherokee family system.” With regard to inheritance, the matrilineal system meant that children did not inherit from their fathers. Instead, men had a special relationship with their nephews – their sisters’ children – as these were members of their clan. Folklorist George Lankford, in his book Native American Legends: Southeastern Legends: Tales from the Natchez, Caddo, Biloxi, Chickasaw, and Other Nations, writes: “Another consequence of matrilineality, which both outraged and delighted Europeans, was that unmarried women were free to seek pleasure or children from anyone they chose.” The Clans The Cherokee had seven clans: Blue: (A ni sa ho ni) Also known as the Panther or Wild Cat clan Long Hair: (A ni gi lo hi) The Peace Chief was usually from this clan Bird: (A ni tsi s kwa)
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