K’é – Kinship: the basis of the Diné clan system

K’é is the way in which a Diné identifies him or herself to other Diné people. He or she belongs to his or her maternal mother’s clan, and is born for his or her father’s clan. This also includes the maternal and paternal grandfather’s clans. The Diné K’é system is very important because it helps a Navajo to identify himself to others and therefore he knows exactly where he stands in relationship to other Diné. If he is of the same clan as another, he is immediately considered part of the family and addressed as son or daughter, brother, sister, uncle or aunt.

The K’é system serves as a guide for marriage as well. A Diné person belongs to four different clans that are unrelated. He or she is forbidden to marry into any of the related or similar clans. If one is related by marriage (such as an in-law), then the in-law is considered an all-around helper for the wife’s family. And he is usually always teased by the wife’s family – but only light-heartedly – to maintain a peaceful, humorous relationship within the family.

Most importantly this system serves as the basis for Diné relationships, including how to show proper respect, introduce yourself and address others, in order to maintain the balance of a peaceful coexistence. For the Diné people, the K’é system also extends into the spiritual world and deities.

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