The Ancient peoples of the American Southwest, like most other Earth cultures, started out with the family as the basic unit of societal organization.
In time, they identified with an extended family, or clan. Among Native American Indians in the Southwest, clan ties follow matrilineal blood lines. Later, clans banded together as tribes or nations. Many modern-day Native American Indians still maintain their clan relationships and responsibilities.
Clans are very important to our understanding of the history of the Ancestral Puebloans. The oral histories of clans, passed from generation to generation, combined with scientific information and archaeological observations, have helped us to discover or confirm who constructed specific Cliff Dweller sites and where their ancestors live now.
The following is a partial list of clans which have existed from ancient times to the present:
All Kinds of Beads
Blue Green Flute
Earth or Sand
The following is a partial list of names of ancient and modern tribal names from the Southwest:
Mesa Verde / Verdean
Northern San Juan
Eastern San Juan River
Hakataya / Hakatayan
Haru Santa Ana
Salt-Gila R. Hohokam
Hopi Bear Clan
A tribe is a larger unit made up of clans, which are made up of families. The names we give to ancient and contemporary tribes originated in different ways. Some are Spanish or English phonetic versions or the original native word. For example, Tesuque is a Spanish word that approximates the tribal word which is phonetically spelled Te-Tsu-Geh. Some tribal names are literal translations of a native word. The Spanish word “Pueblo” is used to describe some tribes who call themselves “The People” in their own language. Other tribal names are based on the tribal language, like Tewa, Towa and Tiwa or Keresan. Others are simply Spanish or English names unrelated to words in the native culture, like San Ildefonso, Santa Clara and Fremont.