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Seven Clans

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There are fewer and fewer Cherokees today that can name the seven clans and even fewer that know to which clan they belong.

In the beginning, the Cherokee people were many and lived in a country of mountains and plenty of water. It was peaceful and the Blue Light gave them strength. But one day, a mountain exploded in this country. The destruction forced the People to leave, searching for a new home. All could not go so the council selected people from each of the twelve clans to find a new home. Along the long journey, five of the clans were destroyed leaving only seven. These people of the seven clans finally came to rest once again in the mountains where the water flowed clear and cold and they grew to be many again.

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There are two numbers that occur over and over again in Cherokee life, songs and stories. These are the number four and the number seven. There are four winds that blow across the land, four phases of the moon, four principal directions (East, North, South and West) and four sacred colors (Red, Blue, White and Black). The number seven appears in the seven encompassing directions (North, South, East, West, Up, Down and Where I Now Stand), seven heavens (the Giver of Breath lives in the seventh heaven) and the seven clans. The names for the seven clans are in the ancient language and there is debate about exactly how the names are interpreted. But this is what I was told of the clans and what they mean:


The Wolf People

Comes From the North

The Paint People

The Long Hair

The Bird People

The Deer People

The Blue People

Clan affiliation is inherited from the mother's line only. It is only natural that the child belong to the mother's clan since she was certain of her birth child whereas the identity of the father might, in some cases, be less certain. It is also interesting to note that mitochondrial DNA is passed on only by the females and it is this DNA that is used to track the developement and origin of species. The clan provided many important functions including care for orphans and the destitute, hospitality for visiting clan members from other towns and most important, the avenging of wrongs committed against clan members. The ancient law of blood revenge was abolished by the Cherokee National Government on September 11, 1808. The act of abolishment was seen to have advanced the Cherokees in civilization, and it spread to many other tribes.
Clan membership is essential to one's existence as a human being within Cherokee society because of the protection of the kinship system. The Clans determine ones role in society. Kinship, through the laws of the clan, governed social relationships, dictated possible marriage partners, regulated behavior throughout the system such as with which people one could be intimate. One clan law that was universally accepted was that one could not marry into their own clan. This is because the clan is seen as an extended family. To have intimate relations with one's fellow clan member is viewed as incest. Today this law is usually only heeded by the traditionalists. When a clan member is visiting other nearby or distant towns, he is still considered family. The dramatic decline in clan affiliation occurred during the middle of the 20th century (1940-1969) but recently efforts are being made to renew and strengthen the clan system. It should be said that among traditionalists the clan system has always been strong and was strengthened further by the Stomp Dance movement. If the clan affiliation is not known, it is very rare that it will be identified. The task is made very difficult because there was no records of clan membership kept on file. However there are Cherokee bands such as the Southern Band that permit clan adoption. In otherwords, upon becoming a member of the Southern Band for example, if you do not know what your clan is then you may be adopted by a clan


Anijisqua (Bird Clan)
The Bird Clan are the keepers of the birds and and they are traditionally our messengers. This clan was skilled in using blowguns and snares for bird hunting. They were and are the only people allowed to kill the sacred Eagle, but very few would actually be willing to do it. Only those who are trained in the proper procedure, who know the correct formulas and other ways to attone for the offense will do such an act. The eagle takers are usually paid for their services. The clan color for the Anijisqua is purple (tehalu)


Aniwaya (Wolf Clan)
The Wolf Clan is the largest clan and the most prominent clan, providing most of the war chiefs long ago. The wolf clan are the keepers of the wolf. This means that only members of this clan were permitted to kill wolves, but not many did. Only specialized hunters who were trained how to properly carry this out actually would do it. Even then they were paid for their services. The clan color of the Aniwaya is red (gigage).

Anikawi (Deer Clan)
The Deer Clan traditionally were known to be good hunters and have been known as fast runners, The clan color for the Anikawi is brown (wodige).

Aniwodi (Paint Clan)
The Paint Clan has been known for making red paint for ceremonies. This clan traditinally provided most of the tribes Medicine People. The clan color for the Aniwodi is white (unega)


Anisahoni (Panther Clan)
The Blue or Panther Clan made a blue medicine from a special blue plant to keep our children well. They were also known as the Wildcat Clan. The word sa-ho-ni does not mean panther (tlv-da-ji), its meaning is obscure but is assumed by many to mean feline. Others say it is an old pronounciation of blue (sa-go-ni-ge). The clan color for the Anisahoni is blue (sagonige).

Anigilohi (Long Hair Clan)
The Long Hair Clan are also known as Twister Clan, Hair Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan. Those belonging to this Clan have been known for often wearing their hair in elaborate ways. I have heard the peace chiefs usually came from this clan and wore a white feather robe. The clan color for the Anigilohi is yellow (dalonige)

Anigadogewi (Wild Potatoe Clan)
The Wild Potatoe Clan is also known as the Bear Clan and Raccoon Clan. They were traditionally known to gather the wild potato plants in swamps along streams to make flour and bread. The clan color for the Anigadogewi is green (ijeyusdi)


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The typical map shown of the Cherokee country depicts only the small portion of territory possessed just before the removal, or just the portion of the southern Appalachians where the highest concentration of Cherokee towns were. But the original Cherokee territory was quite expansive and was spread throughout eight of todays states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The first map below shows three borders; the first border is the limit of the Cherokee country before the onslaught of the european settlers which began to arrive in noticable numbers around 1750, the second border is the limit of the Cherokee country at the close of the american revolution, and the third border was the border of the Cherokee country at the time of the removal



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