Kin Groups and Descent. The patrilineal clan was the predominant kinship group in Evenki society; in fact, no word for family exists in the Evenki language. The clan was the unit determining use of territory and punishment for crimes (e.g., strangling for incest). Formerly, the threat of expulsion from the clan was a major form of social control. Evenki could identify clan ancestors for several generations and recount where these ancestors had nomadized. Marriage was exogamous, with prohibitions of affine relations for seven to ten generations. Clans tended to be paired for the purpose of marriage to the extent of developing distinct dialects; cross-cousin marriage, particularly of a man with his mother's brother's daughter, was the ideal and most common form in such cases. Although the family served as the basic economic unit, it was identified by its clan name and participated regularly in clan-based activities, such as the collective use of products of the hunt, collective fulfillment of some tasks, and the provision of collective aid for the poor, the elderly, and orphans. A clan could include a dozen to 100 or more small families. In recent decades clan identity has weakened, and younger Evenki may not know to which clan they belong.
Kinship Terminology. A fairly simple kinship terminology existed for relatives other than those in a direct line of descent (i.e., grandparents, parents, and children). It differentiated relatives by whether they were older or younger (in terms of generations rather than actual age) and by whether they were from the clan of a person's mother or father. Among some Evenki groups, even the term for mother would be applied to one's mother's sisters as well. Polygyny was rare, but when it occurred, the co-wives called each other by the terms for older and younger sister.