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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 3
September, 1936
INTERPRETATION OF SEMINOLE CLAN RELATIONSHIP TERMS*

By H. R. ANTLE

Page 343

So intricate are the functionings of the clan when its kinships and native interpretations of such are considered, the average student of ethnology finds himself in a hopeless maze of confusion when he attempts a study of them. To simplify these relationships and render them more readily comprehensive, the clan terminology of the Seminole is presented in full detail, lacking, however, the complex condition that arises with the institution of exogamous regulations.

The basic character of this study will be myself, a Seminole male who has married a member of another clan in which no member has ever married one of my clan. Where a remote relationship is recognized, a word translation follows in the aboriginal language with its nearest English equivalent, there often being no exact parallel to their meaning. Otherwise, the procedure of presentation will be to give, abbreviated, the English terms of possessive relation (as f′s s′s d′s d) followed by the Seminole term of relationship, this being followed by its nearest English equivalent. Explanatory notes are inserted to clarify such points as may confuse.

For the benefit of interested linguists, the written Creek alphabet is used in spelling the various Seminole terms. This alphabet differs from the English in the absence of the consonants, b, d, g, j, q, x, and z. E has two usages, unmarked being pronounced as i in pin; marked, as ee in meet. R is given a short th or hl sound, depending on the preceding or following consonants or vowels. V has the sound of ah or of a short u. The words are formed in the throat, the vowels being cut short, and a complete expression being softly, but swiftly, expelled.

The Seminole, in referring to any object he may possess, precedes the name of the object with the word cv, meaning "my."



Page 344

Otherwise, the object would be designated by stating its name, which in English would mean it would be preceded by the article a or the. To illustrate, you would say, "Mother," meaning "My mother." The aboriginal, to merely state the object's name, would comprehend the word as "a mother" or "the mother." When, in his tongue, he states possession, if the object's name begins with a vowel, the cv elides with that word. Thus ēhē′wv, meaning "a wife," becomes cvhē′wv, meaning "My wife."

m means mother; f means father; s's s means sister's sister; et cetera.

m and f       cvchul′kē       (my mother and father, or simply, parents)
m cvh′kē (my mother)
f cvr′kē (my father)
older b cv′rv′hv (older of man)

This is one of the several cases where an English equivalent for the actual native word, translated, can not be given in its real meaning.

younger b       cv′cuse (younger of man)
older s cvhv′nwv      (if much older, add hoktv′lkv)

Only among the biologically related sisters does one relationship hold true regardless of age, as will be noted later on relative to the female members of the clan.

younger s       cvhv′nwv mv′netv (my sister having youth)
w′s m en′hokiketv cvh′kē      (my mother of another tribe or clan)

A weak relationship is recognized in this case.

w′s f en′hokiketv cvr′kē        
son′s w       hvtēsē (something like a child)

I would refer to a son or daughter-in-law but not speak of them as mine.

d′s h       see son's w        
w cvhē′wv (my wife)
f′s b cvr′ko′ce (my little father)

Page 345

All male members of my father's clan are my little fathers, regardless of biological relationship.

f′s s         cv′puse         (my grandmother)

All female members of my father's clan, regardless of actual blood relationship or age, are considered as grandmother.

m′s b       cvbo′wv
cv′hopuewv      
cv′pauwv
(my brother, if near my age)
(my nephew, if younger than I)
(my uncle, if older than I)

Contrary to the general idea of the kinship term of a nephew for his blood uncle being the same as his name for his blood father, there is a distinction made. My maternal uncle would, however, take the office of father for me. There is no word to distinguish him from my other clan uncles, who may be any male member, of my mother's clan older than I. According to age, the male members of her clan are classified under one of the above three terms.

m′s s       cv′ko′ce
cvhv′kpvte      
cvwv′nwv
(my little mother, if she is older than I)
(my niece, if younger than I)
(my sister, if she is same age as I)

All female members of my mother's clan, according to their relative age, fall into one of the above three classes.

s′s son see m′s b        
s′s d see m′s s  
b′s son       cv′pucē (my son)

All my brother's sons are my sons and I their little father because their blood father and I are the same clan. See f's b.

b′s d       cvch′ustē       (my daughter)

For the same reason as above, my brother's daughters are mine also.

son see b′s son        
d see b′s d  
f′s f       cv′pucē (my grandfather)

This is not the type of. grandfather I would have if one of my paternal clan female members married and I made reference to her husband. In pre-Columbian times, the paternal grandfather

Page 346

was called by either his clan name or his animal name. He is not considered as related to me, except as noted in f 's b.

f′s m see f's s  
m′s f see m′s b; also f′s f        
m′s m see m′s s  
son's son       ep′pucē (his son)

I am not related to my grandson. The native word, cv′osuswv, is sometimes used in referring to a grandchild; there is no English equivalent for the word.

see son's son                             son's d

The word, ech′ustē, (his daughter) is sometimes used.

d's d see son's d  
d's son see son's son  
f's b's son       see b  

Any son of my little fathers would be my brothers because the son and I would have the same paternal clan.

f's b's d see s  
f's s's son see f's b  
f's s's d see f's s  
m's b's son       see b's son  
m's b's d see b's d  
m's s's son see m's b  
m's s's d ese m's s  
w's s vn'cuk'wvk'kē       (Those who lie down in my house)

No clan relationship is recognized, but they whom we know as brother- or sister-in-law, may visit, sleep and eat with myself and family. See w's m.

w's b       see w's s  
b's w ev'cēr'wv hawv  

This term cannot be translated; it can be used to refer to the woman as "his wife." The same term is applied by a wife in speaking of her husband's sister.

s's h see w's b  
f's f's b       address him by his clan name  

Page 347

f's f's s address her by her clan name  
f's m's b see f's b  
f's m's s       see f's s  
m's f's b cvh'ke er'kē       (my mother's father)
m's f's s cvh′kē puse (my mother's grandmother)—see f's s
m's m's s see m's s  
m's m's b cvh′ke ecer′wv (my mother's brother)

Notice the female possessive case in the latter word, ece, which prefixes certain words. For another type of feminine possession, see b's d's son, below.

b's son's son       cv′rvhv ep′pucē erep′pusē (word translation; no relation;
b's son's d cv′rvhv ep′pucē ech′ustē (word translation; no relation)
b's d's son cv′rvhv ech′uste ech′use ep′pusē       (word translation; no relation)

Notice the feminine possessive word, ech′ustē.

b's d's d                       cv′rvhv ech′ustē ech′use hvn'vn'wv               (word translation; no relation)
s's son's son see b's son  
s's son's d see b's d  
s's d's son see m's b  
s's d's d see m's s  
d's h's parents cv′chustē ēhē etskv′lkē (word translation; the last word refers to any parents; no relation)
son's w's parents cv′pucē eha′wv etskv′lkē (word translation; no relation)
f's b's son's son cvth′ke tēcak′kvt ep′pucē erep′pucē (word translation; no relation)

The second word refers to no special kind of brother, that is, any brother. See older b and younger b; also m's b.

f's b's son's d      cvth′kē tēcak′kvt ep′puse ech′ustē      (word translation; no relation)
f's b's d's d cvth′kē tēcak′kvt ech′ustē hvn′wv (word translation; no relation)
f's b's son's d cvth′kē tēcak′kvt ep′puce ech′ustē (word translation; no relation)

Page 348

f's s's son's son      see f's b's son                 
f's s's d's son see f's b  
f's s's d's d see f's s  
m's b's son's son cvh′kē ecer′wv ep′pucē erep′pucē    (word translation; no relation)
m's b's son's d cvh′kē ecer′wv ep′pucē ech′ustē (word translation; no relation)
m's s's d's s see m's b.  
m's s's d's d see m's s  
f's b's son's w cv′hv′ca′wv (my something like a sister)

In as much as she is the wife of my brother (see f's b's son) she would be a sister-in-law but of a different kind than w's s.

f's b's d's h         see f's f         This kinship is weak and rarely recognized.
f's s's son's w see b's s This is also a weak relationship.
m's s's son's w see m's s Used rarely.
m's s's d's h see m's b Weak kinship.
m's b's d's h see d's h  
f's b's w see f's s Weak.
f's s's h see f's f Weak.
m's b's w see m's s Weak.
m's s's h see m's b Weak.

Modern Indians do refer to a brother-in-law or sister-in-law as ancuk′wvk′ke. As my m's b, he would be my brother.

f's m's b's son teck′key′vt            (my brother) Different than other types previously mentioned.
step-f see f's b  
step-m see f's s  
step-son ev′pucē v′ha′kē (just like a son)
step-d e′chustē v′ha′kē (just like a daughter)

All other relationships are not considered close enough to mention by a specialized name as in the type forms where word translations follow in cases where we have a very definite expression of kinship. The aboriginal, to refer to these, would do so in descriptive terms in which the same manner we would use to speak of a distant blood relative or a relative of a relative to whom we are not at all linked.

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