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The Seven Clans of the Cherokee
Symbol of the 7 Clans
Division of the Clans
There are 7 clans of the Cherokee Indian. It is important to know this because they are not allowed to marry inside their clan. The women are the head of household in the Cherokee so membership is attained through the mother. The members within a clan are considered brothers and sisters.
It is said that there were originally 14 clans but some of the clans would not obey the laws and customs of the people and were driven out of the nation. The expelled clans formed the tribes now known as the Erie, Mohawk, Onandaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Oneida. It is taught among the Chickamauga that ALL clans are part of the Bear Clan. The seven clans that remained became known as Ugaya (Seven Clan Society).
Aniwahya (Wolf Clan or Panther representing war)
The Wolf Clan is the largest and most prominent clan. They provide most of the war chiefs in our history. They are the keeper and tracker of the wolf. They are the only clan who could kill a wolf through special ceremonies and wolf medicines.
It is their responsibility to develop, maintain and teach the knowledge of loyalty, protection and security. They have the ability to keep up to date intellegence on the surrounding environment, to function as part of the group while maintaining their own individuality and the wolf an its habitat. The clan color if the Aniwahya is red, their wood is hickory and their flag is red with white stars.
Ani Tsiskwa (Small Bird Clan or Eagle representing spirit)
The Small Bird Clan rests in the north on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. Members of this clan are the keepers of the birds, sacred feathers and bird medicines. They are very skilled in using blowguns and snares for bird hunting. These members are the messengers. They are responsible for teaching the importance of recognizing the whole pattern of life regarding positive and negative events. They teach keen observation, sharing and giving, interpretation of dreams, the birds, interpretation of their messages and their willingness for self-sacrifice for the sake of the two legged ones. They are responsible for collecting feathers earned by others because they were the only ones authorized to collect them. Their color is purple, their wood is maple and their flag is blue with red stars.
Anikawi (Deer Clan or Bison representing peace)
These clan members were the keeper of the deer, deer hunters and trackers, tanners and seamers as well as keeper of the deer medicines. They rest in the northwest on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. They are known as fast runners and foot messengers, delivering messages from village to village or person to person. They also maintain all sports and sports equipment. It is their responsibility to teach the knowledge of relaxation and unconditional love. They also teach of the deer and its habitat, including its willingness of self sacrifice to provide the two legged ones with food and clothing. Their color is brown, their wood is oak and their flag is purple with yellow stars.
Anigilohi (Twister Clan or "Long Hair" representing day and night)
Members of the Twister Clan are also known as Long Hair (Anigilohi), Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan. The word Gilahi is short for an ancient Gitlvgvnahita, meaning "something that grows from the back of the neck". They rest in the south on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. Members of this clan wore their hair in elaborate hair styles, walked in a proud and vain manner, twisting their shoulders. (Hence, Twister Clan). Peace Chiefs wore a white feather robe. This clan's responsibility is to teach tradition, spiritual knowledge and intuition. Many old spiritual priests came from this clan. It is sometimes referred to as the Stranger Clan because prisoners of war, orphans from other tribes and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan. Their color is yellow, their wood is beech and their flag is black with white stars.
Anisahoni (Blue Clan or Blue Holly representing Sky)
Members of the Blue Clan were keepers of all children's medicines and caretakers of the medicinal herb gardens. They rest in the southwest on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. They became known for a medicine from a bluish colored plant called the Blue Holly and were so named after it. They are also known as the Panther or Wildcat Clan in some regions. Their responsibilities include teaching knowledge of the panther and its habitat, truth, ability to balance power, intention, physical strength, grace and growing, preparing and using herbs for food and medicinal purposes. Their color is blue, their wood is ash and their flag is blue with white stars.
Anigatogewi (Wild Potato Clan or Tobacco representing flesh)
Members of the Wild Potato Clan were known as farmers and gatherers of the wild potato plants in swamps (gatogewi meaning swamp), and along streams to make flour or bread. They rest in the south on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. Their responsibilities include teaching the knowledge of in-sight, introspection, gathering, growing and preserving food, and providing shelter. They also teach of the bear and its habitat and the bear's willingness for total self sacrifice to provide food and clothing for the two legged ones. This clan may have also been known as the Bear Clan. They are nurturers by nature and gatherers. According to the Chronicles of Oklahoma, they were originally known as the Kituwah Clan. Their color is green their wood is birch and their flag is yellow with green stars.
Aniwodi (Red Paint Clan representing death)
The Red Paint or Paint Clan were also known as the "Corn People". They rest in the southeast on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. Members of this clan made red paint. Dida:hnvwi:sgi (healers/ sorcerers and medicine men) and Adawehi (wisemen) traditionally came from this clan at one time in our history. This clan is the smalles and most secretive of the groups. Their responsibilitis include teaching the knowledge of life, birth, death and regeneration. They also teach of things kept hidden, second sight and illusion, including the ceremonies, rituals and tools thereof. They were the only ones allowed to make a special red paint and dye that were used for ceremonial purposes and warfare. This clan is known for their prominent Medicine People and Conjurors. Their color is white, their wood is locust and their flag is black with red stars.
Each clan is controlled by elected women and by elders of both men and women. The women were given this responsibility because they were the ones who stayed home with their babies and assured the continuity of the family and clan. Because of this responsibility of the women for the family and the town, all property belonged to the women and the children belonged to her clan as only a mother is known for sure. It was women who inherited field rights as handed down from mother to daughter.
It was the responsibility of each clan to judge and execute any punishment of any social wrong done by a clan member but the clan did not and could not make the laws or social customs. All laws and customs were made either by the Anidawehi, the people or evolved out of ancient acceptance. All religious laws were handled by the Anidawehi and Cherokee's believed religion was part of every day living.
The Four Sacred Colors
Each of the four sacred colors represent a direction and is associated with certain meanings.
- Red: East / Success / triumph
- White: South / peace / happiness
- Black: West / death
- Blue: North / defeat / trouble