Chiefs and Shamans

In the days of the ancestors the Haida class systems were based on wealth and rank, which was finalized at potlatches. The chiefs position was his rank and the social structure determined the rank of others. Through the adoption of rich relatives, few people had no status at all. There were chiefs of Eagle or Raven lineages and villages, each inheriting his position from a brother or uncle. To maintain the position, he had to be generous in the gifts that were given away at potlatches.

Shamans were men or women that were different and lived apart from others, so little information is known about them. They were doctors with special powers and were summoned in matters of life and death. Chiefs depended upon the Shamans to give them insight into whether they would be successful with raids on other villages.

Acknowledgements: Argillite by Douglas Wilson, Potlatch by Steltzer, Islands at the Edge by the Islands Protection Society, Ninstints: Haida World Heritage Site by George McDonald, Bill Reid, Beyond the Essential form by Karen Duffek, Totem Poles by Hilary Stewart, Haida: Their Art and Culture by Leslie Drew.

Categories: Haida Culture

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