the Diné were ready to journey back to the East, they did not want to
leave Changing Woman. She told them that she could not go with them, but she
would give them what they needed. She created the four clans and gave them prayers
& songs. She taught them that the rainbow symbolized protection. She gave
each of the clans a sacred stone of white shell, turquoise, abalone shell, or
jet. And she gave them a sacred cane (gish) to use as a guide in their travels.
She gave them food & water to help them grow & prosper, corn for food,
corn pollen for offerings, water for ceremonies & to sustain life, dried
meat, & yucca fruit. She told them to journey to their new homeland within
the four sacred mountains where their grandfather, Talking God, awaited them.
- Mud People Clan
the Hashtl'ishnii, Changing Woman gave a cane (gish) made of black jet, which
became the Sacred Black Jet Gish. Through this gift, people of the Hashtl'ishnii
Clan became skilled, naturally gifted, & creative people. Today these people
are still rug weavers, craft people , & farmers. Changing Woman gave them
the porcupine (dahsaní) as their symbol of protection. "Saní"
means old; therefore, the Mud People are considered wise & skillful at outsmarting
their enemies. The hair & quills of the porcupine are used in healing ceremonies.
Bundles of quills are tied to an infants cradleboard to ensure good health,
the ash of burned quills is applied to infected sores, & the smoke is inhaled
to clear congestion. During the journey when the clan needed water, the gish
was driven into the ground, but the water that sprang forth was muddy. This
is how the clan gained their name, the Mud People Clan.
Yaa'áanii - Towering House Clan
To the Kin Yaa'áanii, Changing Woman gave a cane (gish) made
of white shell, which became the Sacred White Shell Gish. Through this gift,
people of the Kin Yaa'áanii Clan became respected leaders, guides, &
teachers. Changing woman gave them bear (shash) as their symbol of protection.
It is a strong symbol, & the claws & skin are seen in sand paintings
for the Mountain & Bear Chants. The bear is called dzil yaah naagháhí,
meaning "one that walks on the mountains." Some clans tell the story
that the keeper of the White Shell gish became frustrated when he dug for water
& found none. He threw the gish against a canyon wall. When the people saw
him standing there, they mistook the canyon wall for a house. This is how the
clan became known as the Towering
- One Walks Around You Clan
T0 the Honághááhnii, Changing Woman gave a cane (gish)
made of turquoise, which became the Sacred Turquoise Gish. With songs &
prayers, this gift helped people of the Honághááhnii Clan
become medicine men & women. Turquoise stones were to be worn for protection
when traveling & to give speakers fortitude & the right to speak about
the traditions of the Diné. Changing woman gave them mountain lion (náshdóítsoh)
as their symbol of protection & healing. Ceremonies & songs tell of
the mountain lion's medicinal powers. Its eyes are able to see evil in the darkness.
The Honághááhnii name may have been given to them by the
Apache, meaning "One Walks Around You Clan." Or it may have originated
from the custom of leaving a warrior to walk around while others slept at night.
dích'íinii - Bitter Water Clan
the Tó dích'íinii, Changing Woman gave a cane (gish) made
of abalone shell, which became the Sacred Abalone Shell Gish. Through this gift,
people of the
Tó dích'íinii Clan became philosophers & educators,
sharing their knowledge with others. Changing Woman gave them a protector. Some
clans say that they were given the bullsnake (diyóósh). Others
say the wolf (ma' iitsoh) is their protector. The howl of a wolf is a signal
to turn back from a battle, raid, or hunting trip. Although most snakes are
considered evil, the bullsnake is respected & considered harmless. Sometimes
the snake represents lightning. When it moves about, the Diné say it
will soon rain. As a sign of respect for the sacred snake, & in thanks for
the rain, Diné children are taught to sit still during thunderstorms.
The name Bitter Water Clan is said to have originated when bitter water spouted
from a hole dug by a spiritual man.
San Juan School District Curriculum Center
When a Navajo baby is born, he or she belongs to the clan of the mother. The
clan name passes on through her to her children. When a young man marries, it
must be to someone completely outside of his clan. Even though people in his
clan are not all blood-related, it is considered in-appropriate to marry within
one's own clan. This rule is strictly observed. Should it occur, it would be
considered as "incest" to the Navajo people.
An important Navajo custom is to introduce one's maternal and paternal clans
on both sides of his family when meeting another Navajo or introducing yourself
to the Navajo public for the first time. In the Navajo way, this is how Navajos
know where you came from. Navajo children are "born to" the mother's clan and
take her clan name, and are "born for" the father's clan. Therefore, Navajos
precisely know who they are through identification by their mother's, father's,
maternal grandfather's and paternal grandfather's clans. For example, Harrison
Lapahie Jr.'s Navajo lineage is "Bit'ahnii Tachii'nii", with the mother's clan
listed first. B?t'ahnii (Folded Arms People) from his mother's (Lillie Todychini)
side, born for the Tachii'nii (Red Running into the Water Clan) from his father's
(Harrison Lapahie) side. The Tod?ch'?i'nii (Bitter Water Clan) are his maternal
grandfather, and the Ta'n??zahnii (The Badlands People) are his paternal grandfather's
clan from their moms.
In the Navajo way, two Navajos of the same clan, meeting for the first time,
will refer to each other as "brother" or "sister". Navajos that are cousins
to each other in the American sense, think of each other as "brother" or "sister"
in the Navajo sense. Father's and mother's cousins in the American way are thought
of as aunts and uncles in the Navajo way. Grandparent's brothers and sisters
in the American way are thought of as grandma's and grandpa's in the Navajo
way. Harrison Lapahie Jr. has many brothers, sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas,
and Grandpas, in the Navajo way, that are his Cousins, his father's and mother's
cousins, and his grandparent's brothers and sisters in the American way.
When a Navajo is in strange surroundings, it is not uncommon for his relatives
(in the Navajo way) or his clan members, to have the responsibility for his
housing, food, and welfare, while this individual is in the immediate area.
A Navajo through his own clan (his mom's clan) and the clan groups to which
his father as well as his spouse belong, has a great potential for personal
contacts. This complex network of inter-relationships served in the past to
fuse the scattered bands of Navajos and other American Indians together as a
Origin of the Clans
First Man (Alts? Hastiin) and First Woman (Alts? Asdzaa) found a baby girl at
Gobernador Knob (Ch'oolii) whom they namedChanging Woman (Asdz?? N?dleeh?).
Changing Woman was then raised at Huerfano Mesa (Dzil Na'oodilii) to give birth
to twins, Naay??' Neezgh?n? (Monster Slayer) and T? B?j?sh Ch?n? (Child Born
of Water), who killed the monsters on the earth. The Sun (J?h?naa'??) then wanted
her to come and live with him. He promised to build a beautiful home in the
Western Ocean for her. In order that Changing Woman would not be lonely, some
of the people (animals) decided to go with her to her new home. Changing Woman
then traveled to the Western Ocean to be with her husband, the Sun (J?h?naa'??).
These people (animals) lived with her in the west for some time, but later they
became lonely as they heard of people like themselves who still lived in their
old homeland (Din?tah). Finally, they decided to return. Changing Woman though
that there should be more people, so she created more of them (humans) by rubbing
the skin from her breast, from her back, and from under both arms. In this way,
she created the first four clans. Changing Woman rubbed the skin from her breast
and formed people who became the Kinyaa'aanii13 (Towering House Clan). From
the skin rubbed from her back, the Honaghaahnii (One-Walk-Around Clan10) was
formed. From the skin under her right arm, the Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan)
was created, and from the skin under her left arm, the Hashtl'ishnii (Mud Clan)
As the years pasted, most of the people of Din?tah started moving around from
place to place, and other American Indian tribal bands were adopted into the
Navajo tribe. The Beiy?odz?ne'34 (Paiutes) from Naatsis'??n (Navajo Mountain)
were adopted but were left there because of differences over religious matters.
The people (Din?) then moved down toward the south, where they left the Ch?sh?
(Chiricahua Apache), and adopted the Mexicans (Naakaii). Then they went to the
east, where the Naashgal? Dine'? (Mescalero Apaches) decided to stay. The Mescaleros
now live from Albuquerque all the way down to the home of the Naakaii (Mexicans).
From there, the Din? again moved to the vicinity of Dib? Nitsaa (La Plata Mountains),
where the Beehai (Jicarilla Apaches) eventually settled. The People remained
there for seven winters. They were happy, but there was one problem. The summers
were too short. Because there was not time for the squash and corn to ripen,
the main group moved to Ts? Naajiin (Cabezon Peak).
The names of more than half of the Navajo Clans suggest that they derived from
the places in which the Clans originated, such as Kinyaa'aanii, a Pueblo ruin
in the Crownpoint area of New Mexico, or Deeschii'nii, a canyon in the Cibecue
area of the Western Apache country. The remainder, something less than half,
claim origin from other American Indians including the Mexicans, Apaches, Utes,
Commanches, and Puebloans (Zuni, Jemez, Zia, Santa Ana, and Hopi).
Now the Navajo Tribe has grown to it present system of about 70 or 80 different
Navajo Clans. As of now, no official clans are represented for Anglos (Bilagana),
Blacks (Zhini), or Asians, although Navajos who have one parent that is non-Navajo
are still "born to" or "born for" Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans,
etc.. These clans are divided into nine major clan groupings, although a few
smaller groupings are also recognized.
From the Discover Navajo website - http://www.navajo2002.com/dine/dine-clan.cfm
lived a woman who had magical powers. She moved away from her homeland to a
new place. She soon became lonely and decided to move back home. She needed
more friends to travel with, so she made four new friends. The people she made
were given the very first four clans.
She rubbed different parts of her body to make her new friends.
First, she rubbed her chest to make the Kiyaa'aanii person.
Next, she rubbed her back to make the Hona'gha'ahnii person.
Then she rubbed her right underarm to make the to'di'chi'iinii person.
Last, she rubbed her left underarm to make the Hashtli'shnii person.
Each person was given a protector; the Kiyaa'aani person was given a bear. The
Hona'gha'ahnii person was given a mountain lion. The To'di'ch'ii'nii person
was given a bull snake. And the Hastl'ishnii was given a porcupine.
The special woman returned home safely with her friends and their protectors.
From the Discover Navajo website - http://www.navajo2002.org/stories/stories-clan.cfm