Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast by Mary Giraudo Beck
Among the Northwest Coast Indians (Tlingit, Haida, and others), potlatches traditionally are lavish community gatherings marking important events, such as funerals or marriages. In celebrations that often last many days, sumptuous meals are served; legends about clans and ancestors are sung and enacted with dances, masks, costumes, and drums; totem poles are often raised; and gifts are presented to all guests. Through this custom, cultural ties are renewed and strengthened.
Using details from historical potlatches, and skillfully weaving in legends about animals and spirits revered by Natives—Raven, Grizzly Bear, Salmon, Frog—Mary Beck creates a compelling account of the potlatch ceremony and its place in a community’s celebration of life, death, and continuity.