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Potlatch

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Throughout native North America, gift giving is a central feature of social life. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States and British Columbia in Canada, this tradition is known as the potlatch. Within the tribal groups of these areas, individuals hosting a potlatch give away most, if not all, of their wealth and material goods to show goodwill to the rest of the tribal members and to maintain their social status.

The potlatch was central to the maintenance of tribal hierarchy, even as it allowed a certain social fluidity for individuals who could amass enough material wealth to take part in the ritual. The potlatch probably originated in marriage gift exchanges, inheritance rites, and death rituals and grew into a system of redistribution that maintained social harmony within and between tribes.

When Canadian law prohibited the potlatch in 1884, tribes in British Columbia lost a central and unifying ceremony. Their despair was mirrored by the tribes of the Pacific Northwest when the U.S. government outlawed the potlatch in the early part of the twentieth century. With the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 in the United States and the Canadian Indian Act of 1951, the potlatch was resumed legally. It remains a central feature of Pacific Northwest Indian life today.

Excerpted from Kwakiutl Home Pagewww.kwakiutl.bc.ca
What role does generosity play in your definition of prosperity?


Palaeolithic men valued larger women. Female fat was a sign of well being, plenty and the ability to survive hard times. In the days when hunting provided a large proportion of our food having a fat wife was the equivalent of driving a Ferrari.

Martin Willett

When I hear the word ‘wealthy’, I usually imagine a happy 50-60 year old guy with grey hair and a Rolls Royce or at least a Bentley in the double garage of his 2-storey house - with a tennis-court-big-yard right in front of it.

Nomad4ever.com

What images from society, advertising and TV influence your idea of what wealthy looks like?

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