Potlatch Ceremony


The Potlatch is a ceremony conducted on the birth, death, adoption ,wedding, or any other major event .

This ceremony was and is conducted by the Pacific North West coastal Indian peoples of British Columbia Canada and Alaska U.S.A

The Potlatch was also celebrated to affirm or reaffirm social status to the individual holding the ceremony.

The potlatch reached its most popular amongst the Southern Kwakiutl people from around 1849to 1925.

It could be given by an heir or successor to validate the individual s social position .

The Name potlatch is a Chinook word meaning to give .

At the end of the ceremony the host would then give away large quantity of gifts to people attending the celebration .

In 1885 the Canadian government outlawed the practice and ceremony of the Potlatch because they feared the ceremony as an anti-capitalist event .

Also, Christian ministries wanted to stop the ceremonies perceiving them a threat to conversions

amongst native tribes .

The enforcement of the ban really began in 1913 and continued until around 1951 when it was de criminalised . The no of arrests during this period increased dramatically and caused a lot of unhappiness to native peoples .

If individuals pledged to stop engaging in the ceremonies or handed over sacred and other objects that were given in ceremonies, then the individuals could receive a lesser sentence .

Around 700or so objects and sacred items were collected by the department of Indian affairs and then eventually sold off to institutions and museums for display .

Thankfully today the potlatch is alive and well since its reinstation and so the people can now celebrate this historic ceremony once again .

However, some of these sacred items are still in museums and proving rightful ownership can be quite a legal problem .

Clearly any object not given freely by native people to any museum or institution art gallery demeans the true meaning these items have for the cultural lives of the   Pacific  coastal peoples who practice the Potlatch ceremony .