Anthro 101


(The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis.  is one of the most
significant and controversial representations of traditional American
Indian culture ever produced.  Issued in a limited edition from
1907-1930, the publication continues to exert a major influence on the
image of Indians in popular culture.)

Michelle, my Link Fairy, wonders if she has been invited to a potluck. No, llama llama, it’s a POTLATCH.  "A Potlach is a ceremony among certain Native American and First Nations peoples" (and midwestern WASPS who have accumulated too many broken cell phones, birdhouses, fine collectibles.) "Originally, the potlatch was held to celebrate events in the life cycle of the host family such as the birth of a child" (…or a move to a much smaller home in the Windy City.) "The host demonstrates their extraordinary strange taste, conspicuous consumerism, wealth and prominence through giving away their possessions and thus prompt participants to reciprocate when they hold their own potlatch. (Never, NEVER reciprocate to my potlatch or you’ll be wiped from my senseless sidebar forever.)

When I was an undergraduate at the wrong university in Michigan, I almost became an anthropologist. Ultimately- and paradoxically- it was the plight of the First Nations peoples, learned in anthro classes, that snagged me into social work. The rub between cultures and the demand to assimilate both fascinated and horrified me. Did you know that those most peaceful of peoples, the Hopi, had all of their chairmen ensconced in Alcatraz when they refused to send their children off the mesas, away from family and into non-native schools? As a young social worker I struggled to write a grant for the prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in a population of natives where the incidence of alcohol abuse among pregnant women was over 75%.

Meanwhile, back in the Pacific NorthWest "potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1885 and the United States in
the late nineteenth century, largely at the urging of missionaries and
government agents who considered it ‘a worse than useless custom’ that
was wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to the work ethic and values
of the society of Canada and the United States." The Kwakuit, for example, were giving away so much that they were left bankrupt and dependent on the welfare of others. But how else, in a time of shrinking culture and diminished lands, could a person maintain their status in the community?

Today people continue to hold potlatches and they are once again an
important part of community life. They may be performed for a variety
of different reasons. Many, if not most, potlatches are today associated with the commemoration
of a deceased individual, usually an important person in the community.

Monday will mark the first day of my own personal potlatch. I find myself at a fork in the road with way too much baggage. For example:

Too many fossils and sharks teeth.
A spare juice extractor.
A lovely French children’s matching game- where the players match the scent of flowers!
An extra paper wasp nest (it’s been dewasped).
A taxidermied pheasant with rainbow feathers.
Speaking of feathers, 6 baby finches. (pickup potlatch, only)
Bushels of fleece, fibers and yarns.
Too much music (can there be too much music, you ask? a mammoth vinyl collection screams yes!)
Garden tools.
Shells, bird’s nests and baskets.
Old marbles (the ones I didn’t lose).

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. One Rubbermade containter among dozens…

A lot of this stuff is just too, ah, eclectic for your basic yard sale. That’s where we’ll get rid of all the upholstered furniture. But, as delightfully quirky as many of these things are, I just don’t have the room in my new life. I am about to shrink my footprint by a thousand square feet, an automobile and a lifetime of collected objects that, somewhere along the way, struck my magpie fancy. These are my valuables.

Since I began my blog I have been the recipient of nature photographs, chocolate, wine, bread, music, pecans and other delicious and comforting items. And more friendship than I ever imagined. So without much ado, I’m going to box these things up and send them on their way. Here, altogether, they take up a lot of space but spread among my friends, they’ll take up barely any. Anyone who sends me their snail mail address will be gifted. There’s a link to my e-mail in the sidebar. Please come to my potlatch?

17 responses to “Anthro 101

  1. So you think you have “lost your marbles”. I have your snail mail so expect something very small, it WILL fit into your new lifestyle I promise.

    I bet McCloud and Sophie are a bit confused. Sophie will be clinging to her sleeping bag…”No, no, you can’t take that!” Has Abby retrieved her “stuff”? You could move some of it down to Florida.

    I had never heard of a POTLATCH before. (I just called mine at the last move a DEBULKING) If I lived in Ann Arbor I would be over to help. It is a daunting task to move after such a long time in one place.

  2. I’ll take the matching French children’s game.

    I promise it will, ultimately, feel good to clean out and simplify.

    Go, V!

  3. I love the way you think. I was an anthro major at CU Boulder. Funny, I started college thinking I’d be a social worker, but was absolutely knocked out by anthropology. A potlatching blogger, who would have thought such a thing possible? Wonderful.

  4. This is almost as fun as a Lutheran potluck!

    Is wrestling allowed at a potlatch? I’ll grapple Edgy Mama down for that French children’s matching game; I’m tired of Candyland! My second choice is the rainbow-feathered pheasant. As a child my November birthday dinner was always pheasant under glass, the poor bird hunted down by my dear father and the delectable dish prepared by my sweet mother.

    The wrong university in Michigan!* GO SPARTANS!

    Your list says much about you, Vicki. It is a fine list and you are a good egg – toothsome, too!

    Prayers for you during this eventful time of your life!

    *Since you finally tell the truth I shall confess that I drove from E. Lansing to you-know-where for grad classes when my hubby was a TA at MSU. But, I wore sunglasses and took as many back roads as possible. Does this confession count as therapy?

  5. Please don’t put the University of Oregon sweatshirt on the auction block, Vicki. You will need to wear it to White Sox games.

    Potlatching does sound like much fun, though. I hope you got a lot of stamps.

  6. Taking notes…please re-send your snail mail if you haven’t in the last few days because, well, remember that computer death back in March?
    I’m very excited about this. I have boxes all lined up! No Gene, never! The Mighty Ducks goes with me to the Windy City. SRP- my dove photos hang on the wall in Florida already. 🙂 Lucky for Edgy and Bonnie and others that I have MANY fine children’s items looking for homes…and there’s Santa Squirrel, the taxidermied squirrel who comes complete with Santa hat, a stocking and little blown glass ornaments…
    Oh, this is going to be so much fun!

  7. I love your little list of things you are leaving, and I found it very strange to be entertained alongside of educated this ‘early’ in my day. (Hey, I’m sick, remember? Waking up at almost 11am is good for me, right?)

    Part of me desperately wants to participate in your potlatch, and part of me thinks that it would be highly inappropriate for me to add to my own personal magpie collection 😉 Especially with a zillion and one things for baby on their way into my household in the next few months. Where am I going to PUT it all?!

    Either way, I think it’s a grand idea and I hope you will tell us (once everyone has their gifts) what you’ve sent to who and maybe a little bit of why? I think that would be a hilarious and wonderful post 😀

  8. Catching up.
    Just a few changes going on huh? Good luck with your move. I’m passing on the interesting stuff as it is already too interesting around here and we are out of space. Great idea tho!

  9. Checking in from the road via Blackberry. Every muscle is on fire. 48 miles yesterday and again today. I’m coming to the potlatch. Surprise me. XO

  10. The French matching game sounds cool. I am a French teacher, you know!! S’IL VOUS PLAIT??

  11. What fun from and for all sides of the Potlatch. For a while I was thinking Potlatch was when you rode up to to someone really fast and touched them, but then I remembered that was counting coup. My daughter is in anthropology and doesn’t know what “too many fossils” means.

    I’m looking forward to vicariously exploring Chicago with you.

  12. I think a potlatch is a brilliant idea, and I’d be thrilled to participate, but I really don’t want to saddle you with postage to Germany – it can be unbelievably high. But have fun with it, and good luck with the move!

  13. What a great idea.

    I have so much extra stuff, I could have several potlatches and not miss a bit of it.

    (Old Hoss sent me.)

  14. You have my adress, right? ; )

    My girls love packages and so do I.

  15. Oh, I see I need to resend. Okay.

  16. Now I see the date on this post. Did I come too late?

  17. This is such a good idea! I would totally sign up for the potlatch, if I didn’t already have 5,000 things to get rid of already! You are a sweetheart and by the way, I can totally see Gene with the squirrel! Potlatch!

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