Potlatch, a highly regulated event historically common to most Northwest Coast Aboriginal groups (seeNATIVE PEOPLE, NORTHWEST COAST). The potlatch, from the Chinook word Patshatl, validated status, rank and established claims to names, powers and privileges. Wealth in the form of utilitarian goods such as blankets, carved cedar boxes, food and fish or canoes, and prestige items such as slaves and COPPERS were accumulated to be bestowed on others or even destroyed with great ceremony. Potlatches were held to celebrate initiation, to mourn the dead, or to mark the investiture of chiefs in a continuing series of often competitive exchanges between CLANS, lineages and rival groups. In addition to the material exchange, the potlatch also maintained community and societal hierarchy, cultural rituals and social harmony within and between individual Bands and Nations.
Images of a from the Tlingit and the importance of the potlatch. From You Tube.
A great potlatch could be many years in the making, might last for several days, and would involve fasting, spirit dances, theatrical demonstrations and distribution of gifts. An intolerant federal government banned the potlatch from 1884 to 1951, ostensibly because of Aboriginal treatment of property. The last major potlatch, that of Daniel Cranmer, a KWAKIUTL from Alert Bay, was held in 1921. However, the goods were confiscated by Aboriginal agents. By the time the ban was repealed in 1951, serious damage had been caused to traditional Aboriginal identities and social stratification. Potlatches are again held today, but they are not the large events they were in the past.
Potlatch Regalia Dance regalia given up by Kwakiutl who attended Dan Cranmer's potlatch in 1921 at the village of Alert Bay, NWT (courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum).
Announcing a Potlatch On a ceremonial dugout canoe, made from a single cedar log, costumed bird and animal dancers announce a potlatch (courtesy Lazare and Parker/National Wildlife Federation).
Copper Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Haida. Coppers were one of the most valued offerings at the potlatch (courtesy ROM).
RENÉ R. GADACZ
U. Steltzer, Haida Potlatch (1984); D. Cole and I. Chaikin, An Iron Hand Upon the People (1990); Mary Beck, Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast (1993).
Links to Other Sites Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
The Edge of the World: BC's Early Years
Watch a series of short films about the events, people, and places that shaped British Columbia's early history. Features a wealth of archival photographs. From knowledge.ca.
FirstVoices Language Archive
A website devoted to Canada's indigenous languages. Features program information, multimedia dictionaries, and related resources. Produced by The First Peoples' Cultural Foundation.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
The website for the Kwakiutl Band, one of the original inhabitants of the northern Vancouver Island region. Features an illustrated overview of their culture, history, and heritage and information about treaty negotiations and reserve lands. Click on the Our Land: History section for links to articles about the fragile relationship between local First Nations communities and the Hudson's Bay Company in this area.
Absolutely free, with over 40,000 articles in French and English, The Canadian Encyclopedia is the ultimate online resource for all things Canadian, from history, sports, arts, science, technology, and much, much more. Get started at www.TheCanadianEncyclopedia.com
The story of the founding of Montreal is perhaps unique in history....
Browse the rich visual resources of The Canadian Encyclopedia through thematic galleries of Canadian Art, History, Nature, People, and Science and Technology.
Illustrations, lively text, animations, sounds and games help make learning about Canadian history, art, geography, architecture and other topics entertaining as well as informative.
The ultimate test of your knowledge of Canada, trivial and otherwise. You can choose from more than 60 dynamic quizzes with visual or text clues. Your scores depend on the speed with which
you answer and the number of clues you need. Results are sent to you by email and high scores are posted on the site.
This unique resource includes more than 6000 events from Canadian and world history. It can be searched by era, subject, keyword or date. To find out what happened on your birthday, select
the month and day of your birth.
100 Greatest Events
This selection of the 100 "greatest" events in Canadian history was made by editor in chief James H. Marsh to draw attention to events that have left an indelible memory in the minds of