Clans are made up of individuals who trace their ancestry matrilineally to a common ancestor who is part of that clan's creation story. Clans include more than one family and have developed into many lines of ancestry. The Hopi have many clans, such as the Bear and Parrot clans, within each village. Clans that emerged into the fourth way of life or migrated together are considered phratries. Each of the 34 living clans is distinct but related to other clans within their particular phratries.

Special duties are associated with membership in each clan. Each clan has its own history, which explains not only how that clan came to be but how all Hopi came to be who they are. Each clan is also responsible for hosting ceremonies and for keeping and honoring certain sacred objects. If you are a woman, you inherit property through your mother's clan. The clan you belong to also determines what ceremonial offices you may hold, and certain important offices must rotate between members of different clans.

Clans even determine how you act around certain individuals. Hopi are forbidden to marry anyone from their own clan. The entire clan is considered family, and Hopi must take care of clan members and treat them with great respect. The mother's clan, which is the primary clan, is owed special respect and responsibilities. For instance, the mother's sister's family is nearly as close to a person as his immediate family. The father's relatives are also important, but a person can feel more free to tease and joke with members of that clan.

Bringing a child into the world is especially important, and different members of the child's father's clan are given particular responsibilities, such as caring for the mother and child after the birth and naming the child. In this way, each child begins a life surrounded by the web of clan relationships.