Kinship Group and Descent. In their earlier, nomadic way of life the Tofalar were organized by clans. The tribe was led by an elder called the ulug-bash (big head). The basic unit was the nyon (clan), in which ties were reckoned patrilineally. Officially, there were five named clans but in actuality there were seven. One of them was called the "Karahaash"—hence the pre-Revoluntionary name of the Tofalar, "Karagas"; this clan, however, died out at the beginning of the twentieth century because of an epidemic. A clan consisted of a group of closely related families descended from one ancestor. Such a group was called an aal and was exogamous.
Kinship Terminology. Tofalar kinship terminology contains separate sets of terms expressing blood ties as well as ties through marriage, thus there are many terms for relations through the father's and the mother's lines. In addition, terms for addressing older relatives have been elaborated in considerable detail; for example, an older brother is called an aha and an older sister, uba, whereas younger siblings are called by the single term dunma.