potlatch

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search

English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

A potlatch (sense 1) of the Kwakwakaʼwakw people of the Pacific Northwest, photographed by Edward S. Curtis and published in the early 20th century.

The noun is borrowed from Chinook Jargon potlatch, pátlač (to give; gift; gift-giving ceremony, potlatch), from Nootka Jargon pa'chatle, pa'chēētle, pah-chilt (“to give, give me”), from Nootka p̕ačiƛ (to give a gift during a potlatch ceremony).[1]

Sense 1 of the verb (“to give; especially, to give a a gift during a potlatch ceremony”) is borrowed from Chinook Jargon potlatch, pátlač (see above); sense 2 (“to carry out or take part in a potlatch ceremony”) is derived from the noun.[2]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

potlatch (usually uncountable, plural potlatches)

  1. (Canada, US, also figuratively) A ceremony amongst certain indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in which gifts are bestowed upon guests and personal property is destroyed in a show of generosity and wealth.
    • 1844, Charles Wilkes, “Puget Sound and Okonagan”, in Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. [], volume IV, Philadelphia, Pa.: [] C. Sherman, OCLC 1050156225, page 445:
      First, the Indian himself is to be sought out; then the horse is to be tried; next the price is to be discussed, then the mode of payment, and finally the potlatch: each and all are matters of grave consideration and delay, during which the Indians make a business of watching every circumstance of which they can take advantage. No one can be sure of closing his bargain, until the terms are duly arranged, the potlatch given, and the horse delivered.
    • 1873, Robert Brown, “The North-western American Indians”, in The Races of Mankind: [], volume I, London; Paris: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin, OCLC 913570560, pages 75–76:
      The end of all this scraping and hoarding is to give away the property again at some potlatch, at which in a few hours the labour of years will be dissipated. The feasts are often given by the chief men of small tribes as a sort of peace-offering to more powerful ones; but most frequently they are looked upon in the light of gratifying the vanity of the giver and of adding to his personal consequence. [...] The chiefs are under the necessity of frequently giving these potlatches in order to preserve their popularity, just as the old knights used to scatter largess to their followers; [...]
    • 1876 October 15, James Lenihan, “British Columbia Superintendencies. [No. 29. Report on Indian Affairs in Fraser Superintendency, British Columbia.]”, in Annual Report of the Department of the Interior for the Year Ended 30th June, 1876. [], Ottawa: [] Maclean, Roger & Co., [], published 1877, OCLC 166634573, part I (Indian Branch), page 38:
      I questioned the Chief respecting a "Potlache" which he had held at his place during the previous winter, and ascertained that himself and two of his Headmen had given away in presents to their friends 134 sacks of flour, 140 pairs of blankets, together with a quantity of apples and provisions, amounting in value to about $700, for all of which they had paid in cash out of their earnings as laborers, fishermen, and hunters.
    • 1897, Franz Boas, “The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians, []”, in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, [] Report of the U.S. National Museum, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, ISSN 0097-644X, OCLC 183317757, chapter XIII (The Religious Ceremonials of Other Tribes of the North Pacific Coast), pages 647–648:
      Nusk’Elu′sta, the Indian, to whom I owe my information regarding the clans, and who is a member of the gens Ialô′stimōt of the Taliô′mx·, stated that he had received the raven [carving] when he gave his first potlatch. At his second potlatch he received the eagle. He hoped that his mother would give him the whale at his next potlatch, and would at the same time divulge to him the secrets connected with it. [...] Property is also destroyed at potlatches. This is not returned, and serves only to enhance the social position of the individual who performed this act.
    • 1900 April 7, Jack London, “The Wife of a King”, in The Son of the Wolf: Tales of the Far North, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton, Mifflin and Company [], OCLC 1161196780, page 162:
      That night there was a grand wedding and a potlach; so that for two days to follow there was no fishing done by the village.
    • [1951], Viola E[dmundson] Garfield, “Part 1: The Tsimshian and Their Neighbors”, in Viola E. Garfield; Paul S. Wingert; Marius Barbeau; Marian W. Smith, editor, The Tsimshian: Their Arts and Music (Publications of the American Ethnological Society; XVIII), New York, N.Y.: J. J. Augustin, OCLC 1154506152, chapter III (Political Organization), page 37:
      No potlatch or secret society initiation could be given by a tribal member until the chief had officially opened the winter ceremonial season. His affairs took priority over those sponsored by lineage heads, who must provide him with wealth befor they were able to accumulate for their own potlatches.
    • 1971, Gwendolyn MacEwen, “House of the Whale”, in David Helwig and Tom Marshall, editors, Fourteen Stories High, Ottawa, Ont.: Oberon Press, →ISBN, pages 26–27; republished in Meaghan Strimas, editor, The Selected Gwendolyn MacEwen (Exile Classics; no. 7), Holstein, Ont.: Exile Editions, 2007, →ISBN, page 142:
      Anyway, I lie here and imagine grandfather celebrating a heavenly potlache – (heaven is the only place he'll ever celebrate it, for it's long since been forbidden by the government here on earth) – and the great Christian gates are opening for him now, and behind him the charred remains of his pipe and his blue denims bear witness to the last potlache of all.
    • 1993 March 25, Byron L[eslie] Dorgan, “Opening Statement of Senator Dorgan”, in The Breakdown of IRS Tax Enforcement Regarding Multinational Corporations: Revenue Losses, Excessive Litigation, and Unfair Burdens for U.S. Producers: Hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, First Session [] (S. Hrg. 103-102), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, →ISBN, page 2:
      Corporations will now have to justify all their internal pricing decisions up front. This will be a potlatche[sic] for economic consultants. But it will be a huge burden for honest business taxpayers, and it won't bring us much closer to a solution.
    • 1994 September 12, David Guterson, chapter 7, in Snow Falling on Cedars, [Boston, Mass.]: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, published 2012, →ISBN:
      One part bacchanal, one part tribal potlatch, one part vestigial New England supper, the entire affair hinged on the coronation of the Strawberry Princess—always a virginal Japanese maiden dressed in satin and dusted carefully across the face with rice powder—in an oddly solemn ceremony before the Island County Courthouse at sundown of the inaugural evening.
    • 1995, Michael Sorkin, “War is Swell”, in Donald Albrecht, editor, World War II and the American Dream: How Wartime Building Changed a Nation, Washington, D.C.: National Building Museum, →ISBN, page 251:
      This was the delusion of Reaganomics, the supply-siders' inability to distinguish between spending and prosperity with the result that we simply waged economic warfare on ourselves in a potlatch of mutually assured bankruptcy.
    • 2014, Kate Mikoley, “The Potlatch”, in Therese Shea, editor, Native American Ceremonies and Celebrations: From Potlatches to Powwows (Native American Cultures), New York, N.Y.: Gareth Stevens Publishing, →ISBN, page 14:
      Traditionally, potlatches were given in honor of marriages, births, and deaths. [...] People who had been shamed in public could throw a potlatch to regain good standing in the community.
  2. (US, chiefly Alaska) A communal meal to which guests bring dishes to share; a potluck.
    Synonym: fuddle (Britain, dialectal)

Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

potlatch (third-person singular simple present potlatches, present participle potlatching, simple past and past participle potlatched)

  1. (transitive) To give; especially, to give as a gift during a potlatch ceremony.
    • [1869 November 10, “[Accompanying Papers. Alaska.] Appendix M. Letter from William S. Dodge, Ex-mayor of Sitka, on Affairs in Alaska Generally.”, in Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Made to the Secretary of the Interior, for the Year 1869, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, published 1870, OCLC 20180185, page 589:
      He was a Chilkaht chief, and it being New Year's day, he had been to General Davis's house and "potlatched" (treated) to a bottle of whiskey.]
    • 1871 September, “About the Shores of Puget Sound”, in The Overland Monthly: Devoted to the Development of the Country, volume VII, number 3, San Francisco, Calif.: John H. Carmany & Company, OCLC 1011856346, page 282, column 2:
      I came to see if you can potlatch a old sword, and hi-yu buttons [plenty buttons].
    • 1885 November 2, I[srael] W[ood] Powell, “[Report on Indian Affairs in the Province of British Columbia]”, in Dominion of Canada: Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 31st December, 1885. [], Ottawa: [] Maclean, Roger & Co., [], published 1886, OCLC 899258994, page 120:
      The chief was permitted to meet his many creditors and return the goods he had received at previous feasts on the distinct understanding, however, that no gifts were to be "potlached" i.e., donated with the usual custom of having them returned.
    • 1908 February, F. M. Kelly, “Over the Backbone of Vancouver Island”, in Frank H. Mayer, editor, Western Field: The Sportsman’s Magazine of the West, volume 12, number 1, San Francisco, Calif.: The Western Field Company, OCLC 5139096, page 37, column 1:
      After giving them a feed and potlaching some grub for their back trip, we paid the Indians off, after making arrangements with them to return at a certain date.
    • 1955, Edward Sapir; Morris Swadesh, Native Accounts of Nootka Ethnography, Bloomington, Ind.: Center in Anthropology, Folklore and Linguistics, Indiana University, OCLC 10999848, page 263:
      Then he gave out half dollars to all the Huupachas men and women because Kwalats (Gaillic's oldest boy) had stumbled against the saw he was going to potlatch. Charly Ross finished potlatching. The Tishaa were agog over the potlatching for the child who had stumbled.
    • 2003, James Kari, “Alexander Creek. [Ghuliy—Potlatch Wealth.]”, in James Kari; James A. Fall; Shem Pete, Shem Pete’s Alaska: The Territory of the Upper Cook Inlet Dena’ina, 2nd edition, Fairbanks, Ak.: University of Alaska Press, →ISBN, page 116, column 1:
      When Big Chilligan died in 1931, the shirt was potlatched to Simeon Chickalusion, the chief at Tyonek. Upon Chickalusion's death in 1957, the shirt was potlatched to Shem Pete.
    • 2007 April, Paul Helliwell, “Zombie Nation”, in Josephine Berry Slater, editor, Mute, volume 2, number 5, London: Pauline van Mourik Broekman; Simon Worthington, →ISBN, ISSN 1356-7748, page 79, column 1:
      The surplus of recorded sound on the computers of the world cannot be potlatched because to make a digital copy does not destroy the original or reduce its value. Music cannot even be given away because nothing is lost, it can only be shared in the weakest sense of the term.
  2. (intransitive) To carry out or take part in a potlatch ceremony.
    • 1890, Alexander Badlam, “Totems and Shamans”, in The Wonders of Alaska, San Francisco, Calif.: The Bancroft Company, OCLC 7588498, pages 85–86:
      [page 85] In Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, a native who has acquired a large share of this world's goods becomes at times stricken with a sort of ecstasy, when he feels it incumbent on himself to organize a sort of conscience fund on his own hook. He calls his neighbors together, has a big feast and distributes to his guest all his earthly belongings. [...] [page 86] [T]here is no instance on record of any of the leading capitalists of America ever having held a potlatch, though the records of the Conscience Fund at Washington do show that many Americans have potlatched with the Government according to the extent of their misdoings, some with and some without legal interest.
      A figurative use.
    • 1920 May 4, John Evans, witness, To Prohibit Fishing for Salmon in the Yukon River. Part 2: Hearings before the United States House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Subcommittee on Fish and Fish Hatcheries, Sixty-Sixth Congress, Second Session, on May 4, 1920, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, OCLC 968581646, page 20:
      Natives did not get their wheels into the water until the [salmon] run was nearly over; were all potlaching until the latter part of July.
    • 1959, Robert A. McKennan, The Upper Tanana Indians (Yale Publications in Anthropology; no. 55), New Haven, Conn.: Department of Anthropology, Yale University, OCLC 1108889576, page 118; quoted in Marie-Françoise Guédon, “Life Cycle”, in People of Tetlin, Why are You Singing? (Mercury Series, Ethnology Division Paper; no. 9), Ottawa: National Museum of Man, National Museums of Canada, 1974, OCLC 465551181, page 186:
      While girls are married as soon as they mature, the men marry much later, for custom dictates that a man to be eligible for marriage must have potlached at least once and preferably three times. This rule is gradually breaking down, but even now public opinion frowns on early marriage by young men.
    • 1967, Philip Drucker; Robert F[leming] Heizer, “The Verbalization of Conflict in the Potlatch”, in To Make My Name Good: A Reexamination of the Southern Kwakiutl Potlatch, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.; London: University of California Press, OCLC 601733220, page 134:
      The misconception so often encountered in anthropological literature that an Indian gained social status by potlatching, or potlatched to gain social status, comes in part from the Indians themselves; it is thus one of the categories of ethnographic fact mentioned in earlier pages, what people say they do. [...] Close analysis reveals that the reverse was actually true: So-and-so gave many (read "several major") potlatches because he was a great ("highly ranked") chief. [...] The only exceptions to this rule, and they were few indeed, were those who in relatively recent times, by potlatching and by otherwise establishing good personal relationships with the chiefs, were able to persuade the chiefs to create eagle places for them.
    • 1980, Harumi Befu, “Structural and Motivational Approaches to Social Exchange”, in Kenneth J. Gergen, Martin S. Greenberg, and Richard H. Willis, editors, Social Exchange: Advances in Theory and Research, New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press, Springer Science+Business Media, published 2012, DOI:10.1007/978-1-4613-3087-5_9, →ISBN:
      When they describe, for example, payment of cattle for a bride in East Africa, offering a gift in India to earn spiritual merit, exchanging favors between compadres in Middle America, giving a ceremonial necklace in return for an arm shell in the Trobriand kula ring, and potlaching each other by Kwakiutl chiefs, ethnographers are assuming the operation of some reciprocal principle.
    • 1989, Harry Assu; with Joy Inglis, Assu of Cape Mudge: Recollections of a Coastal Indian Chief, Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press, →ISBN, page 107:
      My boys and I put up a totem pole to my father inside the museum. [...] When you raise a pole you have to potlatch. I potlatched for all the tribes when they gathered here for the museum opening.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]


Chinook Jargon[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Nootka p̕ačiƛ (to give in ceremony).

Noun[edit]

potlatch

  1. gift
  2. giving
  3. gift-feast, potlatch

Verb[edit]

potlatch

  1. to give, receive

French[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowed from Chinook Jargon potlatch (gift), from Nootka p̕ačiƛ (to give in ceremony).

Noun[edit]

potlatch m (plural potlatchs)

  1. potlatch

Further reading[edit]