Art for Social Change

Give-A-Way and  Potlatch
The Pacific Northwest indigenous people's tradition of Potlatch or give-a-way is a gathering in which a family or tribal leader hosts a festival.  A primary purpose of the Potlatch is the re-distribution of wealth and teaching of the concept of giving. As author  Hyemeyohsts Storm puts it "we give because the Great Spirit gives us so much."  Traditionally he Potlatch ceremony included speeches, singing, dancing, feasting and gift giving and allowed a host to extend his/her  ancestral privileges to the guests.  We Americans have much to learn from this ancient American practice.

In honor of the spirit of Potlatch, we will be giving away a few of our silver pendants  periodically. Some of the designs are very old and are unlikely to be reproduced again and some of them we just have in abundance. Our give-a-way does not pretend to be a  traditional Potlatch. Originally I was working on yet another marketing campaign when I stumbled upon the Potlatch. So besides the all-too-American practice of marketing.... our intention is to learn of ancient traditions of giving and recognize  the value of practicing re-distribution of wealth and abundance.

In 1885 potlatching was made illegal to practice in America and Canada. Largely this was due to the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" and contrary to "civilized" values. The ban was repealed in 1951. Sustaining the customs and ways of their ancestors, indigenous people now openly hold Potlatch to commit to the restoring of their ancestors'  ways. 
In the Native cultures, 'the most valuable' is saved to give away and 'storing or hording things' is not understood. There is a high value placed on giving and sharing. Once something is given away, all strings to that gift are cut. The gift is given without expectations. Native people believe that what is given always comes back to the user in one good way or another. It is the giver who receives the greatest blessing.

The introduction of this wise tradition into non Native-American  culture could possibly be just what our country needs. 


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