Kin Groups and Descent. There are several dozen Nivkh clans. Each clan is defined by clan exogamy and by payment of blood money and bride-price, and the expenses for burial, the bear festival, and clan-controlled storehouses. Clans are patrilineal. Yet anthropologists have noted and theorists have emphasized some important unique features, such as a man's relationship to his maternal uncle (ritual gifts, ransom money); some posit that these features point to an earlier matrilineal or matrilocal system. The bear, the hearth (fire), and the flint stone (for ritual fire) also symbolized the clan.
Kinship Terminology. For cousins, kin terminology followed the Iroquois system: father's sister's children are called by the same names as mother's brother's children (as contrasted with siblings and parallel cousins). Another kinship term that has two meanings is err (in the South Sakhalin dialect). It can mean both "my wife's father" and "my mother's older brother." Both of the persons designated by "err" are one generation older than the speaker and both are from the same clan.