Cherokee Clans: An Informal History

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By Donald N. Panther-Yates

The Cherokee Clans are unique, not exactly paralleled in any other tribes.  Handed down in strict matrilinear fashion, each person’s clan is the same as the mother’s. There used to be strict prohibitions against marrying  within it. The Seven are Wolf (Ani-Wahiya), Bird (Ani-Tiskwa), Deer (Ani-Kawi), Twister (Ani-Gilohi), Wild Potato (Ani-Gotegewi), Panther (Ani-Sahoni) and Paint (Ani-Wodi).  Although sometimes combined with the Panther Clan, the Bear Clan is usually ignored in the scheme.

Suppressed by the reforms of affluent half-breed planters following the death of Dragging Canoe in 1792, the Cherokee clans and their secrets went underground, so that by the twentieth century, few Cherokees, even full bloods, knew much about them.

If you are a Cherokee descendant, you have a clan. Are you from the Teachers? The Warriors? The clan of the peace chiefs? The speakers, singers and dancers? The “Terrible Ones”?

Donald Panther-Yates, who is Paint Clan, has assembled in these notes the first book-length treatment of a lost social order and ancient identity.

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