Cherokee society is historically a matrilineal society and clanship is attained through the mother. Prior to Oklahoma statehood, the women were considered the head of household, and the home and children belonged to her should she separate from a husband. There are seven clans: A-ni-gi-lo-hi (Long Hair), A-ni-sa-ho-ni (Blue), A-ni-wa-ya (Wolf), A-ni-go-te-ge-wi (Wild Potato), A-ni-a-wi (Deer), A-ni-tsi-s-qua (Bird), A-ni-wo-di (Paint). The knowledge of a person's clan is important. Clan members are considered brother and sisters and it is forbidden to marry within your clan. When seeking spiritual guidance and medicine it is necessary to name your clan, and seating at ceremonial stomp dances is by clan.

The Long Hair Clan, whose subdivisions are Twister, Wind and Strangers, are known to be a very peaceful clan. In the times of the Peace Chief and War Chief government, the Peace Chief would come from this clan. Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus the name Strangers. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Long Hair arbor is on the East side and also houses the chiefs and other leaders of the ground.

The Blue Clan's subdivisions are Panther or Wildcat and Bear, which is considered the oldest clan. This clan produced people who were able to make special medicines for children. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Blue arbor is to the left of the Long Hair arbor.

The Wolf has been known throughout time to be the largest clan. During the time of the Peace Chief and War Chief government, the War Chief would come from this clan. Wolves are known as protectors. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Wolf arbor is to the left of the Blue arbor.

The Wild Potato Clan's subdivision is Blind Savannah. Members of this clan were known to be "keepers of the land," and gatherers. The wild potato was a staple of the traditional Cherokee diet back east. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Wild Potato arbor is to the left of the Wolf arbor.

Members of the Deer Clan were known as fast runners and hunters. Even though they hunted game for subsistence, they respected and cared for the animals while they were living among them. They were also known as messengers on an earthly level, delivering messages from village to village, or person to person. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Deer arbor is to the left of the Wild Potato arbor.

Members of the Bird Clan were known as messengers. The belief that birds are messengers between earth and heaven, or the people and Creator, gave the members of this clan the responsibility of caring for the birds. The subdivisions are Raven, Turtle Dove and Eagle. Eagle feathers were originally presented by the members of this clan, as they were the only ones able to collect them. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Bird arbor is to the left of the Deer arbor.

Members of the Paint Clan were historically known as medicine people. Medicine is often "painted" on a patient after harvesting, mixing and performing other aspects of the ceremony. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Paint arbor is to the left of the Bird arbor.

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center. For more information, visit cultural@cherokee.org. Cultural information may vary from clan to clan, location to location and family to family.