Potlatching Among The Kwakuitl Essay, Research Paper
The Kwakiutl are an American Indian folk that live on the northern shore of Vancouver Island in British Columbia and on the next mainland in a state with a coastline about as long and inletted per square stat mi of district as that of Norway ( Bohannon, 1966 ) . The Kwakiutl are important in that they engage in a really alone signifier of exchange known as potlatching.
A potlatch was a ceremonial given by a head and his group, as hosts, to invitees composed of another head or heads with their several groups, at which the invitees were given wealth goods as gifts ( Drucker, 1967 ) .
Kottak ( 1982 ) defines a potlatch as a gay event where, assisted by other members of their communities, patrons gave off nutrient, covers, pieces of Cu and other points. In return for this they got prestige. To give a potlatch enhanced a boy s repute and prestigiousness increased with the luxury of the potlatch and the value of the goods given away with it.
Bohannon ( 1966 ) offers another definition of the potlatch. The word potlatch is derived from the Chinook linguistic communication and it means gift. The potlatch is a ceremonial juncture on which one exchanges or gives gifts to one s challenger, who is a adult male busying a position closest to one s ain in the graded hierarchy. Potlatch involves the giving of belongings by one holder of a place to the holder of an equal or higher place. The former does this to keep the glorification of the rank he holds and the glorification of the ascendants from who he inherited the place ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
The Kwakiutl are more haunted with rank than most other peoples in the universe. They created unreal deficits and their nisus for high societal place was an built-in portion of the economic system. In add-on there was an administration made up of a figure of graded but heredity officers, each one marked by crests, ceremonial privileges and rubrics. The ranking of places was neither automatic nor unchangeable and each place was reaffirmed by potlatches ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
During the winter the Kwakiutl did really small in the manner of production activities but instead turned their attending to ceremonial activities and potlatches. Potlatchs were normally given on of import occasions. Potlatchs were held in association with matrimony, births or inductions or they were held in connexion with winter dances or other spiritual rites ( Bohannon, 1966 ) . Potlatchs were besides held to observe matrimonies, births, deceases, acceptances or the coming of age of immature people. A potlatch may be given as a punishment for interrupting a tabu such as acting frivolously or executing fecklessly at a sacred winter dance. Potlatchs to salvage face could be prompted by an accident even every bit fiddling as turtling a canoe or the birth of a distorted kid ( Haviland, 1989 ) .
Among the Kwakiutl the most of import potlatch counters were covers. It was necessary for the potlatcher to roll up as many covers as possible through wise investings and precise involvement rates and so to change over the covers into other types of goods ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
Before the coming of bales of covers and other mass-produced trade articles, native wealth was used. These points were scarce for one of several possible grounds. They were rare in nature like the nuggets of Cu used to do Cus. They could besides be a long clip in the devising, like labouriously manufactured canoes or robes. This meant that even a thickly settled and hardworking group would necessitate old ages to piece adequate wealth articles for a potlatch ( Drucker, 1967 ) .
Codere ( 1950 ) provides an illustration of how a cover potlatch works. This is a instance in which a adult male wanted to put up his boy in a potlatch place from which he himself was retiring. He arranged for several members of his folk to give his boy a 100 covers. The boy so took these covers and gave them to other members of his ain folk, who paid a 100 per centum involvement for maintaining the covers for one twelvemonth. These people besides, so, at the clip that they returned the 100 covers gave him another hundred covers which the male child would finally hold to return at the same one hundred percent involvement rate.
The male child, so, on this juncture had his original 100 covers, his 100 covers involvement and the 100 covers that had been given to him. He now gave these covers out to friends in other folks, who returned them in a shorter clip and with less involvement. This gave the male child a sum of about 450 covers. His male parent so decided that it was clip to keep a potlatch. The male child took his 450 covers and amidst huge ceremony made his presentations.
Two 100 covers went to refund the original loan at one hundred per centum involvement. Another two hundred went to refund the 2nd loan, made when his first gift
s were returned, besides at one hundred per centum involvement. This left him with 50 covers to give away.
Among the most excessive potlatches are those given for competition or retribution ( Haviland, 1989 ) . Rivalry potlatch can be regarded as an application of the face salvaging technique: it was the standard process when self-respect had been injured, a claim to position had been challenged or a adult male was insulted ( Kottak, 1982 ) . A adult male who considered himself insulted would come back either by doing one dramatic gift to the person or by organizing a wider distribution of belongings. This act was a challenge ; it invited the enemy to fit and surpass it by a return gift or a farther distribution ( Mair, 1965 ) .
Potlatching really consists of a whole rhythm of single potlatches each of which is an juncture for a individual to showily change over certain types of wealth into other types of wealth. The existent giving was done with great fanfare and with huge sums of boasting about the investing accomplishment and dauntlessness of the place holder. The challenger was openly dared to make anything half as theatrical ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
Potlatchs are non merely empty, irrational competitory ceremonials. A small town basking an particularly good twelvemonth had a excess of subsistence points, which it could interchange for wealth and wealth could be converted into prestigiousness. Potlatches distributed wealth to other communities who needed it and in return the patronizing communities gained prestigiousness ( Kottak, 1982 ) .
Potlatching besides prevented the development of lasting societal stratification. When wealth was given or destroyed it was turned into a immaterial prestigiousness. Potlatching folks were content to destruct their excesss instead than utilize them to widen the socioeconomic distance between themselves and fellow tribesmen ( Kottak, 1982 ) .
In a potlatch a excess is created for the express intent of deriving prestigiousness through a show of wealth and generous giving of gifts. Unlike the conspicuous ingestion in our ain society the accent is non so much on the billboard of goods which would do them unavailable to others. Alternatively the accent is on giving away, or at least acquiring rid of, 1s wealth. Thus potlatch serves as a grading mechanism, forestalling some persons from roll uping excessively much wealth at the disbursal of other members of society ( Haviland, 1989 ) .
It is ecologically executable for the Kwakiutl to seek to escalate production utilizing prestigiousness and the privilege of touting to honor those who worked harder and to promote others to work harder ( Harris, 1996 ) .
When an impoverished and unprestigious group could no longer keep its ain potlatches, the people abandoned their redistributer-chief and took up abode among relations in a more productive small town. This led to the enlisting of extra labor power to the work force about a peculiarly effectual redistributer ( Harris, 1996 ) .
In add-on to the sociopolitical facets of potlatching there are besides environmental factors that need to be considered.
Potlatchers are hunter-gatherers but when compared to other foragers they were more like nutrient manufacturers. In contrast to most other foragers their environments were non fringy. They had entree to a broad assortment of land and sea resources. Most of import nutrients were pink-orange, herring, candlefish, mountain caprine animals, seals and porpoises ( Kottak, 1982 ) .
The life criterions of the Kwakiutl are among the highest in the universe because there so many resources and big sums of stuff necessities available to them. Probably no other topographic point in the universe offers so many wealths for so small work ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
Resources fluctuate from twelvemonth to twelvemonth and topographic point to topographic point, on the north Pacific seashore. Salmon and herring are non every bit abundant each twelvemonth in a given vicinity. One small town may hold a good twelvemonth while another experiences a bad one. Later their lucks contrary. Therefore although the overall natural environment of the north Pacific seashore is favorable, resources may change in clip and topographic point.
The domains of exchange are widespread because they are cultural adaptative mechanisms. They help the population to accommodate to their environment ( Kottak, 1982 ) . The Kwakiutl classs of wealth are different from those involved in other economic systems because of the fact that they live in such copiousness. This means that subsistence points themselves do non truly come in into the potlatching establishments ( Bohannon, 1966 ) .
Potlatch is basically dependent on the environment to guarantee that the societal and political domains of the community map decently. If there was non an copiousness of natural resources the potlatch would non be able to take topographic point in the manner that it does and the universe would non hold the chance to see a perfect illustration of mutual exchange.