(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!)
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?