Clans

Clans are the Seneca's traditional social unit. Clans are groups of families that share a common female ancestry which are named after animals that provided special assistance to the Seneca. They are divided into two categories, birds and animals.

The four bird clans The four animal clans

Deer

Clans _Deer

Turtle

Clans _Turtle

Hawk

Clans _Hawk

Beaver

Clans _Beaver

Heron

Clans _Bird

Wolf

Clans _Wolf

Snipe

Clans _Bird2

Bear

Clans _Bear

Long ago, members of the same clan were considered relatives and marriage within the same clan was forbidden. Children's lineage, including clan and tribe, descends from their mother. Today, clanship identity is still very important to the Seneca.

Within the Seneca's matrilineal society women have historically been held with high regard, possessing power and responsibility to their clan and tribe. Traditionally the oldest woman of a clan, the Clan Mother, was responsible for nominating, installing, and removing chiefs. They also named all members of their clans. Clan mothers had the right to command a war party to avenge the death of a loved one or to find a suitable person to adopt.