Essay on Dance and Potlatch

Submitted By Vale1989
Words: 498
Pages: 2

The culture of the Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest had many beliefs and customs, but the most famous custom is the Potlatch. The potlatch was a gift-giving feast. It was sort of like Christmas, or a birthday party, but, instead of taking gifts to the party, guests who came to a potlatch received gifts from the host. Tribal chiefs gave potlatches to celebrate important events such as naming a child, marriage, a son’s coming of age, or a funeral and also Potlatches were usually given in a large house built only for potlatches and entire tribes were invited. They danced, sang and listened to speeches, and competitions (Goldensweiser, 1940). Tribes wrestled with each other and raced in canoes. Big potlatches lasted three to five days. The big day was the last when gifts were given out. While at first glance, this appears noble and generous; it was a way to show off a family’s wealth and customs. This custom helped families to increase their popularity and imposing wealth and have a good appearance to the others. Being treated as the elite at a potlatch signified to others that your status was important. The White Deer Skin Ceremony was different to the potlatch because the dance was a special and spiritual ceremony rather than a social event of the Hoopa Indians. They obtained the skin of white deer to have a guardian mascot that was capable to protect them against anything in their life. These skins were passed for several generations and are very uncommon, that must be one of the reasons why people felt so powerful and unique when they wore it. According to the website they must not be sold or traded to anyone.
In the intervals between dances, the priest or old man narrates to the tribe the stories of the past and the laws they should follow carefully. The ceremony finishes with a dance in which all the…