Family Relations and Clans

In the traditional Haida way of life, the clan or family was the most important social unit. The Raven moieties and the Eagle moieties were each divided up into family clans.

The Haida system of names for kin was set up in terms of the family or clan. For example, the same term was used for one’s mother and for all female members of her clan of her own generation - Awaa. Or for example, one used the same term for their own brother and for all male members of one’s own family clan of the same generation as oneself.

Make a point to use these references in everyday language to strengthen the family unit and practice using the terms so that these names for kin won’t be forgotten or twisted.

Personal names belonged to clans and were passed down from one generation to another within the family clan. These names corresponded to social position. Some were names going with chiefs’ positions--whoever had the name was then that chief.

Crests belonged to clans and were used as clan insignin. Haida art was basically directed to glorifying the clan and its members. Most people today know maybe only one of their crests or more likely none at all.

Marriage used to be organized by the family clan. It was preferred that a man marry the daughter of a man of his own clan or the daughter of a woman of his father’s clan. And that a woman marry the son of a man of her own clan or the son of a woman of her father’s clan.

In this way, two clans (mother’s/own and father’s) kept intermarrying from one generation to the next and all the privileges and property of the two clans were kept within as small a group of people as possible. As most Haida’s know, a member of an Eagle clan is supposed to marry a member of a Raven clan and vice versa. In the old days violation of this taboo rule was equivalent to incest.

The chiefs’ of the clans of a village came together as a group to make important decisions about the village affairs. These men formed the village government. The highest chief of the clan that owned that village was the chief of that village and had the greatest say in village affairs.

In addition to towns, family clans owned salmon rivers, berry patches, and stretches of beach for purpose of beach combing.

The father’s family clan of a deceased played a very important role in the traditional Haida funeral.

Making family clan relationships relevant for life today can be done in a number of ways. For example, traditional forms of a marriage or funeral could be encouraged. Chiefs could be chosen where a family clan has none, more extensive and traditional use of crests on invitations, gifts etc. Haida people given personal names.

Surviving clans in the Village of Old Massett include at least the following, including chiefs and crests.

Eagle Side

sgajuuga.ahl 7laanaas/janaas
chief: 7wii.aa
crests: eagle, beaver, sculpin, frog

gawa git’anee
chief: saawhl
crests: eagle, beaver, sculpin, frog

maaman git’anee
chief: sk’ayingaa
crests: eagle, beaver, sculpin, frog

tsiij git’anee
chief: gannyaa, kithlaigaa and dayaang
crests: eagle, hummingbird, beaver, sculpin, skate, whale (kun)

sahgwaa git’anee
chief: yaasuwaad
crests: eagle, beaver, sculpin

chiefs: 7idansuu, 7ihldiinii
crests: beaver, frog, raven, eagle,

t’sa.ahl 7laanaas7janaas
chiefs: 7iit’la.agii nang kint’ahls, naad kaawung
crests: eagle, whale (kun)

tuuhlk’aa git’anee
chief: sdiihldaa
crests: eagle, hummingbird, beaver, sculpin, skate, whale (kun)

Raven Side

sgidaa kaw
chiefs: xanaa, siigee
crests: killerwhale, grizzly bear, black bear, new moon

st’langng 7laanaas/janaas
chiefs: na.ahlaang, nan na.aa k’iinaas
crests: killerwhale, hawk, grizzler bear, thunderbird, cumulus clouds

yahgu 7laanaas/janaas
chiefs: gu.uu, kilsdlaa
crests: grizzly bear, dogfish, killerwhale, wolf, moon

chiefs: skilaawee, skil gyaa.ans, t’aahlganaad
crests: killerwhale, grizzly bear, dogfish, star

kunn 7laanaas/janaas
chief: gyaawhlans
crests: grizzly bear, killerwhale, sea lion, t’sam.aaws (sea monster)