Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Pamela Rae Huteson
The potlatch is a winter festival, with ceremonial feasts, where gifts and property are distributed to obtain or reassert a status, where prominent high caste families display crests, where names are given, where solidarity for war was made (in the past), and peace declared, where memorials are given and ancestors are honored. It was a place where “people played stick games in the evening” recounts Elizabeth Woody in her essay, “Tradition with a big ‘T.‘” Over time the potlatch evolved through external influences, such as a new supernatural encounter, or introductions from surrounding and distant tribes, with European contact being the most dramatic change in ascendancy. With the introduction of the European culture, a new wealth and merchandise system was instituted, which transformed the very format of the potlatch. Competitive potlatches rose to new heights of property distribution with most tribes, and more dramatically with the Southern Kwakiutl. This drew ...