Potlatches

Northwest Coast Tribes practice the potlatches and the purpose is to redistribute wealth. The potlatch represented an important event such as the raising of totem poles or the naming of chiefs or individuals. Names were usually given away in the presence of people. Several different names were given to one person, and some were related to reaching adulthood. When a person was adopted they were given a name and a blanket of the adoptee’s tribe. The people of the villages gather together to feast, dance and give away gifts to the invited chiefs and guests. Potlatches can carry on for days at a time and were a great deal of work to feed a few hundred people. To reciprocate some guests had to hold their own potlatches and give away more than they had received at the previous one.

Haida Potlatching

Haida Potlatch

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.

Photograph courtesy of Carol Wallace, DragonflyHill Vineyard, Victoria BC

Categories: Haida Culture

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