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Clan System - Iroquois Confederacy Social Studies Grade 6

Just as the Iroquois Confederacy had six nations, each nation was made up of different clans. A person's clan is the same as their mother's clan. The members of each clan are all related to each other through their mothers. This is called a matrilineal system. Each clan is represented by a different animal.


There are nine clans, divided into animals from three earth elements: Land, Air & Water.


The land creatures are Deer, Wolf and Bear.

The water creatures are Turtle, Beaver & Eel.

The creatures of the sky are Hawk, Heron & Snipe.


Before the Iroquois Confederacy was created, there were many more clans but after the Peacemaker, only these nine remained.

Click on the name of an Iroquois clan for more information.

Bear    |     Wolf    |     Turtle    |     Snipe    |     Deer    |     Beaver    |     Heron    |     Hawk    |     Eel

All of the Six Nations have members from the Bear, Wolf, and Turtle clan while some nations also have members from some or all of the remaining 6 clans. Clans are headed by clan mothers.  Their duties include: choosing the chiefs, reminding the chiefs of their duties, giving clan names to children, distributing the goods of those who have died, and meeting obligations to medicine societies.  They can remove a chief from office when necessary. The clan system flourishes today among those who follow the traditional  system, but most Iroquois of all faiths identify themselves as members of a particular clan.  In the traditional government, chiefs are responsible to help those in their clans.  The clan mothers appoint the chiefs and evaluate their dedication to those who are yet to come, up to the seventh generation.