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Clans and How They Came to Be

Raccoon on log
Muscogee Clans & How They Came to be

The clan system was and is important to Muscogee people. The clan system is a way to understand relation to one another and what positions or jobs could be held within the tribal town/etvlwv.

Muscogee and Seminole people are matrilineal meaning lineage is followed through the mother. A child inherits their clan from the mother. Members of the same clan could not marry as such a union was considered to be incestuous. However, it was considered good to marry someone of your grandfather’s clan. For children whose tribal blood is from their father are considered children of their father’s clan. I am the daughter of the raccoon clan, which is different from being in the raccoon clan myself.

Clan members are extended family. In the book, ‘Creeks and Seminoles: The Destruction and Regeneration of the Muscogulge People,’ author J. Leitch Wright, Jr. wrote, “If a Wolf visited another town he customarily resided with and was fed by his Wolf brothers and sisters.”

There are original clans but other clans were added along the way. At one point there were more than 50 different clans. Some of the clans still existing today are: wind, tiger/panther, bird, raccoon, deer, bear, alligator, snake, aktvyahche, potato, turtle and others.

Below is the story of how clans came to be taken from the Muscogee Nation Challenge Bowl Study Guide.


In the beginning, the Muscogee people were born out of the earth itself. They crawled up out of the ground through a hole like ants. In those days, they lived in a far western land beside tan mountains that reached the sky. They called the mountains the backbone of the earth. Then a thick fog descended upon the earth, sent by the Master of Breath, Hesaketvmese (He-saw-gee-tum-ee-see).

The Muscogee people could not see. They wandered around blindly, calling out to one another in fear. They drifted apart and became lost. The whole people were separated into small groups, and these groups stayed close to one another in fear of being entirely alone. Finally, the Master had mercy on them. From the eastern edge of the world, where the sun rises, He began to blow away the fog. He blew and blew until the fog was completely gone.

The people were joyful and sang a hymn of thanksgiving to the Master of Breath. And in each of the groups, the people turned to one another and swore eternal brotherhood. They said that from then on these groups would be like large families. The members of each group would be as close to each other as brother and sister, father and son. The group that was farthest east and first to see the sun, praised the wind that had blown the fog away.

They called themselves the Wind Family, or Wind Clan. As the fog moved away from the other groups, they, too, gave themselves names. Each group chose the name of the first animal it saw. So they became the Bear, Deer, Alligator, Raccoon and Bird Clans. However, the Wind Clan was always considered the first clan and the aristocracy of all the clans.

The Master of Breath spoke to them:

“You are the beginning of each one of your families and clans. Live up to your name. Never eat of your clan, for it is your brother. You must never marry into your own clan. This will destroy your clan if you do. When a Native man marries, he must always move with his wife to her clan. There he must live and raise his family. The children will become members of their mother’s clan. Follow these ways and the Muscogees will always be a powerful force. When you forget, your clans will die as people.”

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