There are many different bands or tribes of Gwich'in including, but not limited to: Denduu, Draanjik, Shoo Draanjik, Di'haii, Gwichyaa, K'iitl'it, Neetsaii, Teetl'it, Teetsii, Tanan, Han, and Vantut.
In addition there are three major clan variations across Gwich'in Country. There are two primary clans and one that has a lower/secondary status. The first clan are the "Nantsaii", which literally translates as "First on the land", the second clan are the "Chits'aa" which translates as "The helpers" (second on the land). The last clan is called the "Tenjeraatsaii", which translates as "the untouchables" or "independents". This last clan is reserved for people who marry within their own clan, which is considered incestual, and in a lesser degree for those who are the children of people who are outside of the clan system. In ancient times this would also refer to the children of "Naa'in", people who were expelled from the tribe due to committing a crime. In modern times "Tenjeraatsaii" is also applied to Gwich'in children who are born to white, black, or Asian, mothers, and is used in a non-derogatory way. These mothers simply fall outside of the clan system. In other times, prior to 1900, being a Tenjeraatsaii automatically placed a Gwich'in at the third lowest rung of the social ladder and were ostracized. The second lowest rung was reserved for war-captured slaves. The lowest social status was that of a banished Naa'in. Banishment is still practiced in current times due to the lack of enforcement of American or Canadian law in rural areas, and is enforced by the aggrieved clan and/or band.
There are numerous folk tales about prehistoric times that all begin with the phrase "Deenaadai'", which translates roughly as "In the ancient days". This is usually followed with the admission that this was "when all of the people could talk to the animals, and all of the animals could speak with the people". These stories are often parables, which suggest a proper protocol, or code of behavior for Gwich'in. Equality, generosity, hard work, kindness, mercy, cooperation for mutual success, and just revenge are often the themes of stories such as: Tsyaa Too Oozhrii Gwizhit (The Boy In The Moon), Zhoh Ts'a Nahtryaa (The Wolf and the Wolverine), Vadzaih Luk Haa (The Caribou and the Fish).
The Gwich'in historically had a religious tradition similar to that described as animism. The way of viewing the world was strongly steeped in a natural mysticism. Magical, and mystical, knowledge to traditional Gwich'in is considered natural and not requiring belief by anyone for its inherent truth. Communication with animals for mutual benefit among the Gwich'in is widely acknowledged. Traditionally the Gwich'in had no concept of "K'eegwadhat", or God. Everything in the world: air, stone, water, fire, plant, or animal, possesses spirit or a life-force. Time, mortality, and space are often manipulated according to traditional Gwich'in religion. Common spiritual foes of the Gwich'in shaman in ancient times, and who were considered to be especially powerful as spiritual people, were the Inupiat of the Kobuk river valley, and the Cree Indians of Canada. This division has since been mended however, with little conflict in modern times. Great distance and isolation did not hinder their communication or mutual animosity according to Gwich'in oral tradition. A common example of low level Gwich'in power is the Gwich'in hunter who has been known to dream of an animal in a specific place; upon going to this place the animal will be there waiting for the hunter. Among the Gwich'in this is considered somewhat common. Important figures, in recent times, who represented traditional belief structures are: Johnny and Sarah Frank, Shaanyaati', and Cheegwalti'.
Traditionally the Gwich'in afterlife consisted of a country where the flora and fauna were plentiful. Even the flowers were thought to sing in the afterlife. The eternal life was reached by emptying oneself of all possessions mental, emotional, physical, historical and spiritual. Failing to behave appropriately in a system similar to karma was commonly considered the main hindrance to people's attainment of an afterlife. Positive deeds could empty oneself in preparation for death. When people die, they face a series of tests that they must pass in order to attain admittance into the afterlife; otherwise they are stuck on earth to possibly be reborn again. If a person has any attachment, possibly only negative attachment, to the qualities of their personal life he or she will not pass the tests. Only individuals themselves can determine if they are ready to move on. The Gwich'in did not believe in any spiritual intermediaries such as priests. Every individual is responsible for their own spiritual enlightenment, and spiritual interpretation of experiences. "Dinjii Dazhan" (magical humans or shaman) were merely considered humans that were exceptionally gifted and thereby powerful in some aspect of life. They were held in high regard and, in some cases, were greatly feared. Contemporary belief structures have changed Gwich'in society however.
The introduction of Christianity in the 1840's throughout Gwich'in territory produced spiritual changes that are still widely in effect today. Widespread conversion to Christianity, specifically Episcopalianism and Catholicism is widely recognized among the Gwich'in. Notable figures in the missionary movement among the Gwich'in are Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, Archdeacon Alexander Hunter Murray, Deacon William Loola, and Deacon Albert Tritt. The current traditional chiefs of two Gwich'in villages are also Episcopal priests: Rev. Chief David Salmon of Chalkytsik, and the Rev. Chief Trimble Gilbert of Arctic Village.
The Tukudh Bible is a translation of the entire King James Bible into Gwich'in. The Tukudh Bible is in a century old orthography that is not very accurate, and thus hard to read. In the 1960's Richard Mueller designed a new orthography for Gwich'in, which has now become standard.