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Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast

Overview

Among the Northwest Coast Indians (Tlingit, Haida, and others), potlatches traditionally are lavish community gatherings marking important events, such as funerals or marriages. In celebrations that often last many days, sumptuous meals are served; legends about clans and ancestors are sung and enacted with dances, masks, costumes, and drums; totem poles are often raised; and gifts are presented to all guests. Through this custom, cultural ties are renewed and strengthened.
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Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast

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Overview

Among the Northwest Coast Indians (Tlingit, Haida, and others), potlatches traditionally are lavish community gatherings marking important events, such as funerals or marriages. In celebrations that often last many days, sumptuous meals are served; legends about clans and ancestors are sung and enacted with dances, masks, costumes, and drums; totem poles are often raised; and gifts are presented to all guests. Through this custom, cultural ties are renewed and strengthened.
      Using details from historical potlatches, and skillfully weaving in legends about animals and spirits revered by Natives—Raven, Grizzly Bear, Salmon, Frog—Mary Beck creates a compelling account of the potlatch ceremony and its place in a community’s celebration of life, death, and continuity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beck presents a compelling account of the potlatch ceremony and its place in one community’s celebrations of life . . . she weaves in legends and gives a good picture of the Tlingits beliefs and a view of how their society worked and survived.”

—Debbie Carter, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

“Mary Giraudo Beck’s Potlatch is a rich anthropological history of the ceremonies of giving celebrated by the native peoples of Alaska, Canada, Washington, and Oregon. Using the tradition of storytelling, and help from Raven, her books brings to life these gatherings.”
Elliott Bay Booknotes
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780882408200
  • Publisher: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,399,862
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Beck is the author of three popular books on the Native heritage of Southeast Alaska: Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast, and Shamans and Kuchtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural. A longtime resident of Ketchikan, Alaska, Beck taught literature and writing at Ketchikan Community College for more than thirty years. Mary Beck now lives in Bellevue, Washington.
      Illustrator Marvin Oliver is one of the Northwest Coast’s foremost contemporary sculptors and printmakers, who has made strides in the art world for the development and recognition of Native American Contemporary Fine Art. Oliver is Professor of American Indian Studies and Art at the University of Washington, and serves as Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Native American Art at the Burke Museum. He also holds a part-time post at the University of Alaska Ketchikan.

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Read an Excerpt

After the four days of feasting and entertainment, the time came for the serious memorial potlatch celebration at the house built for this ceremony, when host groups mourned the deceased chief and all their dead.

The nakani ushered guests and hosts to their assigned seats, making every effort to avoid conflict among guests, treating all with equal solemnity. The nakani sat both chiefs side by side. First came the Frog clan chief Qoxkan of Tina Hit with regal stride and solemn bearing, his head high and eyes straight ahead. With equal courtesy and decorum the nakani escorted Dog Salmon chief, Tanaxh of Til Hit, to his place next to the Frog clan chief. Then members of these houses were led to the seats that their rank required.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 4

INTRODUCTION 5

Raven Survives 12

CREMATION AND SMOKING FEAST 13

Raven Creates the Tides 22

PREPARATIONS 23

Raven and the Flood 34

THE INVITATION 35

Raven s Creations 44

HOUSE BUILDING 45

In the Whales Belly 54

WELCOME 55

Raven Sends Fish to the Streams 62

THE POTLATCH 63

Raven in a Fog 76

GIFTS AND PARTIES 77

Raven Loses His Beak 96

PRESTIGE POTLATCH 97

Raven and the Magic Seal Catcher 108

PEACE CEREMONY 109

Further Reading 126

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