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Potlatch Definition Essay

* What is a potlatch?

* A potlatch is an important celebration/ceremony for the First Nations people. A potlatch has many purposes: to reinforce status in a community, to mourn the deceased ones, to celebrate marriage, to raise a totem pole, to name chiefs and pass special privileges and responsibilities with them. The main purpose of a potlatch is to share wealth and witness important/significant events. * A potlatch also consists feasting, singing, dancing, and gift giving. * Where do potlatches take place?

* When a potlatch happens a family or a leader will host guests in their house and will hold a feast/celebration for their guests. * Why did the first European settlers oppose them?

* The first European settlers opposed potlatches because they had little knowledge or understanding of what the purpose of a potlatch is. The Europeans thought it was only a enormous squandering of riches, profane ritual and a barrier to converting the First Nations to a Christian way of life.

* When were they banned? When (and for how long)?

* The potlatch was made illegal in 1884 by the Canadian government, it was so called the Potlatch law in which people were prohibited to take part in the ceremony but if anyone was caught by the government they would take a harsh jail term. This law remained until 1951. Even though doing a potlatch was illegal there were still some who continued doing it, in 1921 by Dan Cranmer (a Kwagiulth chief)did a potlatch in which the Government had known about, raided it and arrested almost 50 people and confiscated some of the ceremony items.

* How does the story of the potlatch symbolize relations between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people? * Since the latter arrived in the Americas 500 years ago, that was when Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people’s relation began. * When the non-Aboriginal people arrived, they did not always respect or had little knowledge about the indigenous cultures, instead they tried to share, impose their own cultural traditions and incorporate the Aboriginal people to it. Most Aboriginal people tried to accept many of the new ways they have learned but didn’t see a reason to leave their own ways.


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