Clans


Clan Image In the old days when our people lived in a matriarchal society the Clan Grandmothers took care of everything, they made the rules as one might say on how things would be done and how people would live in the village and the men enforced whatever they said. In that time men did not have a say in how things would be done. The eldest grandmother in a family became the clan leader hence the title, Clan Grandmother. They kept track of who was who and who was related to whom for the purpose of relationships and or marriages. One has to keep it in their mind that this could become a very controversial subject because of different teachings on the subject matter. In the beginning people were to learn from the four legged and the winged ones. An example of that when a person was learning about medicines and food items he or she was told to go and watch bear and whatever bear ate they ate and so it is they learned about medicine and food items. The Grandmothers said that bear was a great teacher for showing them what was good for them so the Grandmothers honored bear for the teachings on food and medicines and in doing so they named bear as a clan leader and hence the bear clan or clan system was initiated. Each animal or bird had its own values and as the Grandmothers honored each of them and each of them were assigned to their own clan. Years ago when historians were writing about the ways of Indian People they often wrote that Indian people were worshiping animals and birds, that is not true, they were honoring them for their teachings and what they taught the people. Some of the old people of long ago said that the Potawatomi only had five basic clans and that over a long period of time people started borrowing clans from other tribes until it has become as mixed up as it is today. Having said that, there are also some people that have said that there is a clan for every bird, animal and plant and that all people non-Indian alike have a clan system that they belong too. The Grandmothers said that people belonging to same clan should never marry into the same clan. Clan systems can be a very good thing if they are followed the way they were meant to be. Clans also have their own colors and a example of that is in the Potawatomi culture the Bear Clan would use the colors red and black. In our way we would identify our clan by saying Dodem. Pronounced like-dough-dem. Not the way one would hear it on TV or by someone saying totem, that’s show stuff. Quite often people ask me, how does one find what clan do they belong too. Ask one of the eldest people in your family and the only other way is to go the ceremony of the shaking lodge the Jiskan maybe they can get it for you. One of my teachers told me that if someone comes and asks that question about a clan and if they don’t know theirs, he said give them the eagle clan until they find out. As I stated before since this could be controversial it is best to talk to the people in your community about the clans that they follow because all communities are not the same. Clans within our Community are Bear, Eagle, Fish, Thunderbird,, Turtle, Loon and Wolf.