People of the Northwest Coast often lived in villages that were divided into two groups, called moieties (MOY-uh-tees). Each moiety was composed of clans, and a village might include two or several clans.
The members of a clan considered themselves related because they shared the same spirit ancestor. Clans were part of larger groups called phratries (FRAY-trees). Their primary purpose was to govern marriage rules and provide aid. People from the same clan, moiety, or phratry could not marry.
Each clan had three ranks of people: nobles, commoners, and enslaved persons. Nobles were the richest members of their clan. Commoners were respected members of a clan, but they had less wealth than nobles. However, families could gain or lose social status by increasing or losing their wealth. The enslaved people were captives from other villages, and they could not change their status. Usually, several related families lived together in a plank house, which was owned by the wealthiest man.