Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Avatar: The Way of Water.Created for the extensive world of James Cameron’s Avatar, all 15 Avatar Na’vi clans bring something unique to the franchise. The Na’vi, whose name translates literally as “the people” in the Na’vi language, are cyan-skinned humanoid species living on the distant moon Pandora. James Cameron (via SFGATE) recalls his inspiration for the Na’vi came from a dream his mother had of a “12-foot-tall blue woman.” He then incorporated this dream into a screenplay he wrote in the mid-’70s, holding onto the idea for over 30 years before making Avatar.
The Na’vi in Avatar strongly value the complex energy network between life on Pandora, contrasting with the more industrial, capitalistic values that Pandora’s visiting humans hold. They pray to a goddess named Eywa, to whom they have a physical connection through the sacred Tree of Souls. The Avatar Na’vi clans are heavily inspired by cultures on Earth. For example, the 2,600-word Na’vi language was developed by USC linguist professor Paul Frommer, using sounds an array of indigenous languages. Pandora’s Avatar Na’vi clans hold a lot of cultural similarities to each other, but every Na’vi tribe is distinguished by their environment and clan values.
Avatar’s main clan is the Omaticaya, the clan Jake and Neytiri belong to. While Avatar: The Way of Water expanded the franchise by focusing on the Metkayina clan, the Omaticaya was the only Na’vi clan to whom the first Avatar gave any substantial screen time. For this reason, it may be easy to, unfortunately, generalize all the Avatar Na’vi clans’ cultures with the Omaticaya’s way of life.
Notable Omaticaya Na’vi characters in Avatar and Avatar 2 include Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), her mother Mo’at (CCH Pounder), who serves as the clan’s spiritual leader or “Tsahiki,” and the “Olo’eyktan“ or clan leader Eytukan (Wes Studi), who was replaced by the powerful warrior Tsu’tey (Laz Alonso) upon his death. Human Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) becomes a part of the Omaticaya and lives with them full-time once he permanently transfers his life energy to his Na’vi avatar body. The Omaticaya are renowned for their impressive textile and weaving skills.
Most notably — as a weird deleted Avatar scene would have further proved — the Omaticaya are intensely spiritual. Hometree, or Kelutral, was incredibly important to the Omaticaya. Hometree is described in Avatar’s official Activist Survival Guide (ASG) as being “two to three times the height” of Redwoods. The ASG also notes that the Omaticaya call themselves the “Clan of the Blue Flute,” for they believe that Eywa created a blue flute from Hometree where the Omaticaya live.
Reserved only for spiritual occasions, the Omaticaya’s Olo’eyktan will play the blue flute to communicate with spirits, ancestors, and Eywa herself. It isn’t considered a musical instrument, despite its name and melodic nature. Out of the Avatar Na’vi clans, the Omaticaya will also fashion their bows from Hometree, only once they’re considered ready to do so. The destruction of Hometree in Avatar not only left the Omaticaya homeless, but it affected their very identity.
Jake Sully’s life with the Omaticaya strongly differs from his Earth life shown in an Avatar deleted scene. Neytiri teaches him how to ride banshees, known as ikran, and direhorses. Jake also learns from Neytiri about Eywa, Hometree life, Pandora’s energetic network, and the plentitude of jungle resources. The Omaticaya learned English and human customs from the late Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who wanted to learn more about the Na’vi people and taught them her ways as a means of extending goodwill.
The Metkayina is an ocean clan on the eastern coast who welcome Jake and Neytiri’s family after Jake’s guerilla campaign against the RDA goes haywire, and Spider is kidnapped. Fearful that Spider knows the family’s location. Jake and Neytiri exile themselves from the Omaticaya and flee to the eastern seaboard, where they are taken in by the tattooed Metkayina Chief Tonowari. Tonowari and his wife Ronal are warriors themselves who send their children Ao’nung and Tsireya on expeditions with their direhorses.
As fierce protectors of their clan and way of life, Tonowari and Ronal have reservations about Jake’s family’s ability to acclimate to their oceanic culture. However, during The Way of Water this coastal Avatar Na’vi clan is forced to intervene when the RDA starts hunting down the peace-loving Tulkuns — a gentle whale-like and sentient creature that the Metkayina see as their spiritual brethren. The RDA wishes to slaughter Tulkuns for a substance known as amrita, which has anti-aging effects. In Avatar: The Way of Water‘s ending, the RDA is stopped — for now — and the Metkayina clan promises Jake and Neytiri’s family a home before Jake vows to resume his campaign against the RDA.
While not mentioned explicitly by name, the Olangi clan are present in Avatar as the horse clans living on the plain. Out of all the Avatar Na’vi clans, the direhorse is pivotal to the Olangi’s nomadic way of life. The Olangi have different resources at their disposal from the jungle-dwelling Omaticaya and move around based on game patterns. During Avatar’s final battle, they’re useful in ground combat, fighting alongside Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) in avatar form. Because Avatar 2 focuses on Pandora’s oceans, the Olangi aren’t developed much further in the sequel.
Like the Olangi, the Tayrangi clan isn’t mentioned explicitly by name as one of the Avatar Na’vi clans on Pandora. The Tayrangi live on the Eastern Sea’s cliffs and value the ikran for travel in a way that the Olangi relies on direhorses. The Tayrangi were useful in aerial combat during Avatar’s final battle. For their ikran–riding prowess, the Tayrangi clan is similar to the Kekunan clan of the north. The Tayrangi people are also known for their swimming skills and for their generally eclectic, independent nature.
While Avatar introduced a couple of other Avatar Na’vi clans, Avatar video games bring many of Pandora’s other clans to life. While Avatar doesn’t show life on Earth, renamed Terran, the Na’vi mirror humans in many ways with the Tawkami expressing another human cultural trait not seemingly recognized by other clans. Known as the Sky Seer clan, the Tawkami value knowledge, record-keeping, chemistry, and research. They developed a writing system for the Na’vi language that is yet to be seen in the movies. Like the Omaticaya, they live in the jungle. Their village is known as Greenhome.
Explored further in James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, the Tipani clan were the first of the Avatar Na’vi clans to make contact with humans. They are known for their fearlessness and tact in battle and are regarded as strong, skilled warriors. The clan divides itself into separate villages and is the only known Avatar clan to wear actual armor in battle.
The Avatar franchise is expected to have five films in total, meaning that some of these lesser-known Avatar Na’vi clans will be explored in more depth before the end. While these Na’vi clans don’t make big screen appearances so far, they are no less important when it comes to the delicate and connected ecosystem that is Pandora. Cameron has essentially created a universe and a totally unique world in which these Na’vi clans work and live, with some of them being introduced through ancillary Avatar projects such as video games, mobile games, and comics. James Cameron has promised that Avatar 3 will feature the fire Na’vi clan. Here are the remaining nine Avatar Na’vi clans and their noted importance within the greater James Cameron Avatar franchise.
- Anurai Clan – The Anurai are an artisanal clan skilled in using bones. They revere a creature known as the thanator, and find their homes in secluded valleys on Pandora. They’re mentioned in James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game and Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk – The First Flight.
- Li’ona Clan – This clan is from James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game. The clan lives in poor, arid conditions near human factories. Thankfully, Rai’uk of the Li’ona clan helped defend them against their human antagonists, and their rivers began running again.
- Hulanta Clan – From the Avatar: Reckoning mobile game, the Hulanta are considered a Wetlands clan. They consider water to be sacred but were forced from their homes thanks to bombings from the RDA.
- Huyuticaya Clan – The Huyuticaya are mentioned in Avatar’s Activist Survival Guide to have a “tremendous love and respect for viperwolves” (page 105) that they reflect on their streamer, or their clan’s flag.
- Ni’awve Clan – If this interesting Na’vi Avatar theory is correct, the Ni’awve may not even originally be from Pandora. The Ni’awve is the first Na’vi clan ever, mentioned in the Avatar mobile game.
- Kekunan Clan – The Kekunan are from Toruk – The First Flight and are known for being great aerial hunters and ikran riders. Known for their colorful attire and culture, this Avatar Na’vi clan often perform sacred dances.
- Mangkwan Clan – The Mangkwan are briefly mentioned in Avatar: The Last Shadow comics as an ally clan to the Omaticaya. The Mangkwan took in Ateyo and Artsut after being exiled by Jake Sully.
- Rey’tanu Clan – The Rey’tanu were featured in the Avatar: Reckoning mobile game. They primarily rely on agriculture and are said to live in the highlands of Pandora.
- Tomac’ta Clan – The Tomac’ta are mentioned in Avatar‘s Pandorapedia for their “tremendous love and respect for banshees.” They also wear streamers in honor of these sacred creatures.
Next: Avatar 3’s Best Move Is To Leave Pandora