Kin Groups and Descent. During the precolonial period, the exogamous, patrilineal clan ( eamaate ) was the largest cooperative unit. Clans were part of clan clusters, which had birds or animals as totems but lacked any common organization. At the lineage ( riiga ) level, patrilineal descent and marriage defined commonly recognized access to land and provided the rationale for corporate action. During the colonial period, indigenous political and social organization became conceptualized as a segmentary lineage system in which units from the clan cluster, clans, and clan segments became defined according to a genealogical grid with an eponymous ancestor at the top.
Kinship Terminology. Gusii kinship terminology is classificatory, merging lineals with collaterals. Specific lineal terms are used to denote the immediate family: tata (own father), baba (own mother), momma one (own son), and mosubati ominto (young woman of our house). All other women and men of Ego's generation, however, including "real" brothers, are called mamura ominto. In the mother's family, the reciprocal term mame is applied to mother's brothers, their wives, and to sister's children. In any clan in which Ego has kinship connections, individuals of Ego's parents' generation are called tatamoke (small father) or makomoke (small mother). All members of the descending generation are omwana one (my child), those of the grandchildren's generation are omochokoro , and those of the grandparents' generation are sokoro (grandfather) and magokoro (grandmother). Gusii terminology also distinguishes links that have been established by a transfer of marriage cattle.