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The potlatch was a key Northwest ceremony that demonstrated a community's conception of wealth and society.

A potlatch was a gathering that coincided with an event such as the transfer of hereditary titles and rights, a death, the erection of a new house, or a marriage. The entire community was invited to a feast where they were seated and served according to rank. The person being honored then asserted his competency by demonstrating mastery of the mythical family history and rituals. Dramatic presentations or sporting events also were held.

Finally, the host gave away enormous amounts of property, demonstrating that he was so rich that he could afford to do without many of his possessions. The attendees were given gifts in order of rank.

Sometimes, a zealous host destroyed his property instead of bequeathing it. In such circumstances he killed his slaves, burned his house and large amounts of valuable fish oil. Potlatches embodied the societal consequences of redistributing wealth by reinforcing group identity and solidarity, providing a healthy outlet for competition and reaffirming social status.

Off-site search results for "Potlatches"...

mask by Jim Schoppert
These gifts were distributed at a Tlingit potlatch in 1995. Anonymous Gift    95-23               ASM Home  |   Online Exhibits  |  Temporary Exhibits Listing   Web Posted March 2005 ...

Tsimshian Dance Regalia
Blankets are highly valued garments that are still worn today during dances and potlatches. Within Southeast cultures, the blankets and vests must be “danced” after the garment has been completed. Black and red are the predominate colors used in ...

The Seattle Times: Seattle History
... longhouses were built with vertical planks, as in this photo of a Skykomish potlatch house in the late 1800s. Previous | Next  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16  Gallery index  Main gallery index Related ...