K’é – Diné (Navajo) Kinship System

The Diné society is based primarily upon kinship arising from clan affiliation, as each person is a member of the tribe by reason of his or her affiliation to one of the numerous Clans.

It is very important for a person to know K’e – The Kinship System.
Below are the Diné (Navajo) terms for the extended family:

Diné (Navajo) Kinship System

Graphic: Rough Rock  School Press  | © 2013 | All Rights Reserved

The main attributes of Navajo kinship are:

  • The basic term k’é refers to affective action and solidarity, including such concepts as love, compassion, kindness, friendliness, generosity, and peacefulness.
  • Matrilineal — descent is traced through one’s mother
  • Matrilocal — husbands go to reside among the wife’s family. This means that older females will have substantial authority in the organizing and running of the household and control of the property.

The learning of kinship begins with the family which consists of a man, his wife , and his unmarried children.

Clanship is determined through the mother’s clan, and a child is “born for” the father’s clan.

Clanship also determines marriage, as one should marry into one’s own clan, into one’s father’s clan, or with someone whose father’s clan is the same as your father.

K’é is central to maintaining the Diné language and culture. Diné young people must know their clan relatives to avoid marriage within their own clans.

When the Diné greet each other, it is appropriate for them to introduce themselves by telling their clans.

It is critical that all Diné understand their ancestral history so that they can maintain and respect the clan traditions.

The knowledge of these traditions, passed down through many generations, must continue to be taught and respected. This is crucial for survival of the traditional ways of the Diné people.


 K’e Graphic source:
Rough Rock School Press
Phone: 928-728-3788
Fax: 928-728-3502

Dine Culture Awareness Handbook, Central Consolidated School District No.22, NM.

Navajo Clan Legends, compiled by Don Mose Jr., SJSD Media Center, Blanding UT. 2001

Navajo Nation 1997 Close Up Program, Darrell Watchman, ed. Navajo Nation Division of Education, 1997.

Franciscans, Saint Michaels, Ariz. An ethnologic dictionary of the Navaho language (Kindle Locations 9337-9341). Saint Michaels, Ariz., Franciscan Fathers.