Navajo Clanship


In Navajo mythology a god named Changing Woman created the four original clans, who were then followed by other clans. Each of the clans has a story about how they were created and named. Some of the clans came from other tribes, and were adopted, while others were created out of circumstance, and some were found by some clans and were given names. From the four original clans, there are now 100-140 clans, some count even higher, from 21 major groups. In today’s modern age, Navajos have intermarried with non-Navajos, such as Chinese, Arab, Polynesian, and Germans. Some Navajos have given them their own clan name.

Navajo is a matrilineal and matrilocal society. Each Navajo is suppose to belong to four different, unrelated clans. But that has not been the case in some situations. A person belongs to his or her mother’s clan. He or she is born for his or her father’s clan. He or she has maternal and paternal grandfathers’ clans.

A person’s four grandparents (paternal and maternal) make up a clan. A person’s first clan is from the mother’s side. The second clan comes from the father’s side. Third clan is from the mother’s second clan. Fourth clan is from your father’s second clan (his father’s clan)

1. Grandmother’s clan
2. Paternal Grandmother’s clan
3. Grandfather’s clan
4. Paternal Grandfather’s clan

A person introduces themselves as follows:

“Yá’át’ééh my name is __________. I am ______ (name the 1st clan), born for the _____(name the 2nd clan). My grandfathers are ______ (3rd clan) and my paternal grandfathers are ________(4th clan).”

In Navajo society, K’é (pronounced Keeh’) is the Navajo kinship system and represents the strength of the People, the Diné.



K’é System

Center for American Indian Languages (Non-profit)

The Indigenous Language Institute (Non-profit)

Teaching American Indian and Alaska Native Languages in the Schools (Federal)

Wikipedia on Navajo language

Native Languages of the Americas (Non-profit)

Administration for Native Americans (Federal)

National Geographic “Vanishing Languages”



Q: I spell my clan differently than what you have on your products.

ANSWER: It is well known that there are different schools of spelling for clan names. There is no uniformity among the spellings. For example, the common Navajo greeting “hello” is spelled differently by Northern Arizona University professor and language book author Dr. Evangaline Parsons-Yazzie than by others. Dr. Parsons-Yazzie is author of the text book: “Diné Bizaad Binahoo’aah: Rediscovering the Navajo Language.

  • Ya’ át’ ééh is used by Winslow Indian Health Care, Inc. for their newsletter and is used elsewhere.
  • Yá’át’ééh as spelled by Dr. Evangeline Parsons Yazzie

    Q: The story for my clan is different than your story.

    ANSWER: The history of man’s emergence as told in the Bible is no different. In early times, there were varying biblical accounts from different nomadic groups until one story rose above all others after Johannes Gutenberg created the first mass printing machine. His best seller was one version of the biblical story. So, clan stories will always be debatable and criticized, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from waiting for the debate to cease – you might wait forever. It’s best that people know a story then not to know a story and let it fade into the past.

    Q: What is your goal. Why are you trying to promote Navajo clans?

    ANSWER: Most people, especially young people, don’t know their clans when they are asked. Through our products and promotion it helps them to learn their clan and value their Navajo heritage. Language preservation experts say that there are several activities a tribe must do to preserve their language. One of those activities is promoting the language and culture.

    Q: Where can we lean more?

    ANSWER: You can visit this website as often as you can and participate in discussion or visit several sites listed on our Clanship page.

    Q: Why don’t you offer more clans?

    ANSWER: Some clans are so rare that it is not economically feasible to produce them, but we will try and develop if we are contacted. Secondly, it also takes considerable research to get the stories as accurate as possible – or provide both stories — and then write the story in the space available.

    Q: Do you provide special discounts for schools?

    ANSWER: Yes we do. Our purpose is educational. If you are a school we can offer a bulk discount on some items – depending on availability. Please inquire at

    Q: How do we submit news items or events?

    ANSWER: Send news items or cultural events to