Potlatch - Wikipedia
Therefore the law is not a good one, and can not be enforced without causing general discontent. Do we ask the white man, 'Do as the Indian does'? This made him the leader of the numaym, considered the living incarnation of the founder.
And now, if you are come to forbid us to dance, begone; if not, you will be welcome to us. Let the white man observe his law; we shall observe ours. Swan depicting the Klallam people of chief Chetzemoka at Port Townsendwith one of Chetzemoka's wives distributing potlatch Before the arrival of the Europeans, gifts included storable food oolichanor candlefish, oil or dried foodcanoesslavesand ornamental "coppers" among aristocrats, but not resource-generating assets such as hunting, fishing and berrying territories.
Other examples of this "potlatch type" of gift economy include the Kula ring found in the Trobriand Islands.
Two kinds of titles were transferred on these occasions. Tribal slaves were not allowed to attend a potlatch as a host or a guest. Missionary William Duncan wrote in that the potlatch was "by far the most formidable of all obstacles in the way of Indians becoming Christians, or even civilized". If the guest did not return percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his 'power' was diminished.
The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. An orator standing behind the figure would have spoken through its mouth, announcing the names of arriving guests.
Besides the transfer of titles at a potlatch, the event was given "weight" by the distribution of other less important objects such as Chilkat blanketsanimal skins later Hudson Bay blankets and ornamental "coppers". The Tlingit and Kwakiutl tribes of the Pacific Northwest, for example, held potlatch ceremonies for different occasions.
Anthropologist Sergei Kan was invited by the Tlingit tribe to attend several potlatch ceremonies between and and observed several similarities and differences between traditional and contemporary potlatch ceremonies.
The indigenous people were too large to police and the law too difficult to enforce. Duncan Campbell Scott convinced Parliament to change the offence from criminal to summary, which meant "the agents, as justice of the peace, could try a case, convict, and sentence". These ranked titles granted rights to hunting, fishing and berrying territories.
Competition for the fixed number of potlatch titles grew as commoners began to seek titles from which they had previously been excluded by making their own remote or dubious claims validated by a potlatch.
The Kwakiutl potlatches, on the other hand, occurred for marriages and incorporating new people into the tribe i. A potlatch was held on the occasion of births, deaths, adoptions, weddings, and other major events.
A copper was considered the equivalent of a slave. The second reason for the discontent among the Indians is a law that was passed, some time ago, forbidding the celebrations of festivals.
The event was hosted by a numaym, or ' House ', in Kwakwaka'wakw culture. It is the great desire of every chief and even of every man to collect a large amount of property, and then to give a great potlatch, a feast in which all is distributed among his friends, and, if possible, among the neighboring tribes. Besides, the Government is unable to enforce it.
Potlatches now occur frequently and increasingly more over the years as families reclaim their birthright. Despite these differences, Kan stated that he believed that many of the essential elements and spirit of the traditional potlatch were still present in the contemporary Tlingit ceremonies.
They were only ever owned by individual aristocrats, and never by numaym, hence could circulate between groups. Potlatch traditions and formalities and kinship systems in other cultures of the region differ, often substantially.
The House drew its identity from its ancestral founder, usually a mythical animal who descended to earth and removed his animal mask, thus becoming human.
It is a strict law that bids us to dance. The Tlingit potlatches occurred for succession the granting of tribal titles or land and funerals. It had about one hundred members and several would be grouped together into a tribe.
It is a strict law that bids us to distribute our property among our friends and neighbors. Why, then, will you ask us, 'Do as the white man does'? The settlements are so numerous, and the Indian agencies so large, that there is nobody to prevent the Indians doing whatsoever they like.
Firstly, each numaym had a number of named positions of ranked "seats" which gave them a seat at potlatches transferred within itself. During this potlatch, the family would give the child their second name.
Coppers were sheets of beaten copper, shield-like in appearance; they were about two feet long, wider on top, cruciform frame and schematic face on the top half. Every present received at a potlatch has to be returned at another potlatch, and a man who would not give his feast in due time would be considered as not paying his debts. Each nation, tribe, and sometimes clan has its own way of practicing the potlatch with diverse presentation and meaning.
Typically the potlatch was practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends. The mask became a family heirloom passed from father to son along with the name of the ancestor himself.
Aristocrats increased the size of their gifts in order to retain their titles and maintain potlatch singles on line hierarchy. Many of these dances are also sacred ceremonies of secret societies like the hamatsaor display of family origin from supernatural creatures such as the dzunukwa.
Kan notes that there was a language gap during the ceremonies between the older members of the tribe and the younger members of the tribe age fifty and younger due to the fact that most of the younger members of the tribe do not speak the Tlingit language.