Potlatch Ceremonial Feast & Giveaway

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Potlatch Ceremonial Feast & Giveaway

During the Potlatch ritual, there is a ceremonial dance by the tribe members who will be giving gifts away; anyone can be apart in the giveaway. After the dance is finished, these individuals stand in the dancing area with the gifts and other material possessions they will be giving away. The host then calls upon the people that each member has chosen to give a gift to. This is followed by social dancing, singing, and a ceremonial feast.

At the Potlatch feast, a variety of food is served, depending on the season and the host of the feast. Sometimes whale and bear meat are served, while fish and seal meat are always included in the meal. Most of the food at the feast is dipped in traditional seal oil called oolachon. A good host is expected to provide more food for the Potlatch feast than his guests can eat. The seating arrangements for guests at the feast are based on status and they are served with great formality. Highly ranked tribe members like chiefs are served first and are allowed to take more food in larger quantities than others. These honoured individuals are also granted use of the host’s most elaborate dishes and utensils. Guests are often given food to take home and share with others as a sign of the host’s generosity.

Potlatch Ceremonial Feast & Giveaway

There is also a big difference between regular bowls that are used on a daily basis and the bowls/dishes used at potlatches. These feasting bowls and dishes are precisely carved and painted specifically for the feast ritual. They are usually very large to represent the quality and generosity of the host. Other material items and possessions are used during the ritual as gifts to be given away to other tribe members.


The significance of the Potlatch ritual is to honour someone, whether it be to celebrate a wedding or new born baby, or to show respects for a loved one who has passed on. The Potlatch can also be significant when commemorating a great achievement, such as, celebrating a first kill of game or a chief passing his rights and privileges on to his eldest son. For the aboriginal people, the ritual is also to give thanks for all that they receive in their daily lives. It is to redistribute physical wealth among the tribe, as well as, trust, respect, and loyalty among tribe members. By giving away their possessions and other material gifts, they can also receive enlightenment and strengthen their personal connection with family, other members, and the tribe as a whole.

By Young Lau, Based Sion, A$AP Dante

The Potlatch Giveaway is a major ceremonial feast/gift giveaway ritual; “Potlatch” is a Chinook term meaning “giveaway” or “gift.”

The Potlatch is practised by Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian tribes along the pacific coast of British Columbia and the US, such as, the Kwakiutl, Haida, Tlingit, Nuxalk, Coast Salish, and Tsimshian. It is performed for major events to honour someone, like the announcement of births, weddings, or the passing of a loved one. This ritual takes place within the tribe’s village around the chief’s big tipi (hut) or around the lodge. The Potlatch is hosted by the family celebrating the major event.

Potlatch feasts are very different from everyday eating and meals within the tribe, and this is reflected through the types of items and materials that are used during the ritual. Simple wooden and horn spoons are for general everyday use, but the spoons and ladles used by tribes for the potlatch are much more refined and elaborately decorated.

Items Used During Ritual?

What is practised during the ritual?

What is practised during the ritual?

When, Where & by whom it is practised?


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