Cherokee society is traditionally matrilineal; meaning clan membership is derived from the mother. The knowledge of a person’s clan is important for several reasons; it is forbidden to marry within your clan because you are considered brother and sisters. You must name the clan to which you belong for spiritual guidance and traditional medicine and ceremonial seating is also arranged by clan.
Long Hair Clan (ᎠᏂᎩᎶᎯ “a-ni-gi-lo-hi”)
Representing: Day and Night
Clan Mother: Allison “Red Hawk Watching” Pitzer
Tribal Council Representative: Rich “Heart of his People” Scholma
Clan Color: Yellow
This clan was also known as the Twister Clan, Hanging Down Clan, Stranger Clan or Wind Clan. ᎩᎶᎯ “gi-lo-hi” is short for an ancient ᎩᏢᎬᎾᎯᏔ “gi-tlv-gv-na-hi-ta”, a warrior women’s society, meaning “something that grows from the back of the neck”. It has also been known as the Twister Clan because some say those belonging to this clan wore their hair long in elaborate twisted and braided hair styles, or Stranger Clan because prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus the name ‘Strangers.’ Those belonging to this Clan are teachers and keepers of tradition. The Peace Chief was usually chosen from this clan and wore a long white feather robe. This clan teaches tradition, spiritual knowledge and intuition. Many old spiritual priests came from this clan. At ceremonial grounds, the Long Hair arbor is on the East side and also houses the Chiefs and other leaders of the ground.
Blue Clan ( ᎠᏂᏍᎰᏂ “a-ni-sa-ho-ni”)
Clan Mother: Gail “Straight Arrow” Nix
Tribal Council Representative: Roy “Bear Spirit” Nix
Clan Color: Blue
Members of this Clan were keepers of the children’s medicines and caretakers of the medicinal herb gardens. The clan’s name is derived from a plant called Blue Holly which was used to make a special medicine. They are also called Panther or Wildcat Clan in some regions. They teach knowledge of the panther’s ways, truth, ability to balance power, intention, physical strength, grace, growth, preparing and using herbs for food and medicinal purposes.
Wolf Clan (ᎠᏂᏩᏯ “a-ni-wa-ya”)
Clan Mother: Cleo “White Eagle” Brock
Tribal Council Representative: Vacant
Clan Color: Red
This clan was known for strength and prowess as warriors. They were the largest clan and had a lot of clout within the village as most of the War Chiefs came from it. The Wolf Clan were the guardians of the wolf and revered its strength and intelligence. Members of the Wolf Clan were the only ones allowed to kill a wolf. It is their responsibility to develop, maintain and teach the knowledge of loyalty, protection and security.
Wild Potato Clan (ᎠᏂᎦᏙᎩᏪ “a-ni-ga-to-gi-we”)
Clan Mother: Vacant
Tribal Council Representative: Vacant
Clan Color: Green
This clan was known as excellent food gatherers and superb farmers. They foraged the forest for nuts, berries, and other edible plants that were used to feed the tribe. This clan derived its name from the swamps (ᎦᏙᎫᏫ “ga-to-ge-wi”) they skillfully dug tubers from. This clan taught introspection, gathering, growing and preserving food, the ways of the bear and providing shelter. They are keepers and protectors of the earth and have also been known as the Bear Clan, Raccoon Clan and even Blind Savannah in different regions.
Deer Clan (ᎠᏂᎧᏫ “a-ni-ka-wi”)
Clan Mother: Tina Clark
Tribal Council Representative: Robert “Deer Killer” Huff
Clan Color: Brown
The Deer Clan were guardians of deer and other animals. It was their duty when a deer was killed by a hunting party to scatter tobacco offerings in the four directions to honor the deer’s selflessness of giving up its life in order to nourish the people. Members of this clan were also known throughout the nation for being superior hunters and the swiftest runners. They were often called upon to run dispatches between villages.
Bird Clan (ᎠᏂᏥᏍᏆ “a-ni-tsi-s-kwa”)
Clan Mother: Tammy Lynn Reed
Tribal Council Representative: Norman “Cougar” Rhoads
Clan Color: Purple
Members of the bird clan were guardians of all birds and the collectors of feathers for use in sacred ceremonies. They studied the hunting habits of birds of prey and utilized these observations in order to be more effective hunters. This clan consisted of expert blowgun hunters and superb snare set builders. Feather collection was considered a sacred act, therefore only members of this clan were authorized to undertake this important task. Because of the power and swiftness of a bird in flight, members of this clan were often called upon to serve as messengers.
Paint Clan (ᎠᏂᏬᏗ “a-ni-wo-di”)
Clan Mother: Louise “Bird of Many Songs” Twining
Tribal Council Representative: Tim “Healing Spirit” Jordan
Clan Color: White
This clan was highly revered for their abilities as sorcerers, healers, wise men, conjurers and medicine people. Paint clan is typically the smallest and most secretive of the groups. Their responsibilities included teaching knowledge of life, death and regeneration. When the tribe would wage war, the ᏗᏓᏅᏫᏍᎩ “di-da-nv-wi-s-gi” (healer) or ᎠᏓᏪᎯ “a-da-we-hi” (wise men) would bring along sacred objects such as medicinal herbs and a coal from the Sacred Fire. Members of this clan were the only ones allowed to make the special red paint and dye used for ceremonies or warfare; because of this they were considered a red (war) clan.