The rich diversity of Na’vi clan culture cannot be overstated. But what ties these clans together is even greater.
To understand the demographics of the Na’vi is to forget everything you know about demographics, at least as we measure them here on Earth. Among the Na’vi there are distinct races, but no nationalism to reinforce geographic boundaries — there aren’t even nations. There are no differences in fundamental values or beliefs, as you would find with Earth cultures siloed from each other. No innate diversity of religion, societal politics, gender relations, or economics. No serious, inter-clan competitions for resources, of the kinds that lead to unequal civilization building.
“Na’vi” translates to “the people,” and this itself holds the first clue to understanding them. The Na’vi view themselves as a unity — and not even Pandora’s prime unity (as man thinks about himself in relation to nature), but a single unified entity within the larger unity of Eywa herself. For it is through Eywa’s deliberate planning that the Na’vi have come to occupy a place in Pandora, an organized system it shares with every other living thing, every geologic event, and every heavenly body.
This belief in their interconnected existence is the driving force in every Na’vi’s life, defining them at the foundational level. Any demographic difference you see, then, can only be described as superficial.
But differences exist nonetheless. Though they are one people, the Na’vi are distributed across many, many clans, each with its own specialized behaviors, folkways, and evolutionary adaptations to their environments. In this introductory article, we’ll give an at-a-glance overview of some of these clans and the customs that distinguish them.
Specialty: Textiles and weaving
Analysis: Even among the highly attuned Na’vi, the Omatikaya are extremely spiritual. They are known to reside in gigantic Hometrees over generations, and for celebrating their direct, personal connection to Eywa. They also celebrate their connection to each other; as Eywa represents the connectedness of all things, the Omatikaya place great stress on the bonds they share with their fellow clanspeople, prizing hospitality and a good meal above other, more warlike traits. As a symbol of devotion and self-abnegation before Eywa, their clothing is less showy than that of other clans — usually a simple loincloth, with limited adornments. But their large, intricate loom work is celebrated by other clans and humans alike.
Specialty: Expert warriors and hunters
Analysis: Though all Na’vi are proficient fighters, the Tipani commit like no other clan, raising all children as future warriors and beginning combat training at a very young age. They are one of only a few Na’vi clans to have been observed wearing armor and helmets by researchers, and they are experts with a spear, prizing its versatility in both close- and long-range fighting. They are also widely considered the best hunters on Pandora — often they will stalk an animal simply to see how long they can do it without being detected. A natural stoicism helps in this; a Tipani rarely speaks, but when he or she does it’s with great weight and consideration.
Specialty: Direhorse affinity
Analysis: Vast plains cover much of Pandora’s land mass, and it is here that you will find direhorse clans like the Olangi. The clan is nomadic, following game on its seasonal migratory patterns across the plains and often sleeping under the stars. They claim this freedom of movement as both a birthright and a privilege, affording them as it does the chance to “see” so much of their world (in the Eywa-related sense). They depend on the direhorse for hunting, transport, and self-defense, and so have emerged as the moon’s premier riders.
Specialty: Botanical alchemy
Analysis: We at the PRF have a special place in our hearts for the Tawkami, because they are the field botanists of the Na’vi. They have a deep desire to know the natural world (as it is the manifestation of Eywa), and a correspondingly deep knowledge of their jungle habitat — especially plant life. Using every part of the plant, from flower to root to essential oils, they can make potions for healing wounds, curing illness, directing the behavior of animals, and facilitating spiritual guidance.
Specialty: Banshee riding
Analysis: The Kekunan are the most skilled banshee riders on Pandora. Indeed, according to Na’vi legend, it was a Kekunan that became the first Ikran Makto (“Banshee Rider”). Naturally, this makes them a clan that prizes bravery above other traits, as they have at the center of their lives a treacherous climb to tame a banshee, and a hunting life hundreds of meters off the ground. Like the combat training given to the young Tipani, Kekunan children start preparing for banshee riding at an early age. And all Kekunan dress in bright, festive colors to match the vibrant patterns of their mounts.
Specialty: Banshee fishing
Analysis: Like the Kekunan, the Tayrangi are expert banshee riders. What sets them apart, however, is how the clan has adapted this relationship to its coastal surroundings. Rather than hunt game from the air, Kekunan-style, the Tayrangi will ride their banshees out over the waters of the Easter Sea to catch aquatic animals. This means they have a deep knowledge of both the air and the sea, including underwater migratory and feeding patterns. As masters of their coastal territory, they are also some of the strongest swimmers on Pandora, and revere many of the large aquatic predators in their midst.
Specialty: Artisanal crafts
Analysis: The Na’vi of this ancient clan are the artists of Pandora. Their musical ability is legendary, and their unparalleled craftwork — instruments, visual art, and jewelry — lives on, throughout Pandora and even in the black markets of Earth. The commodification of this work is unfortunate, as the Anurai regard the artistic act as heavy with spiritual symbolism. The scavenged bones of dead animals are their chief raw materials, and they believe that the spirit of each animal “speaks” through the artist’s work, all the way down to individual strokes of an artist’s chisel. Even the simple act of repurposing a death object, and making it sing, symbolizes the Na’vi principle that all states are harmonized.