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Archive for December 16th, 2008

Merry Potlatch

In these dire economic times, people are looking anywhere and everywhere for ideas on how to make sense of it all, or to just stay afloat amidst the deluge.  Courtesy of the NY Times, lessons for the Holidays from the Kwakwaka’wakw Indians and potlatch on gift-giving.

What can the Kwakwaka’wakw teach us in our hard times? Here, courtesy of some of their elders and the anthropologists who have studied the potlatch, are some lessons for dealing with the holiday crunch

Their simple advice includes: “simplify and economize,” “control your animosity,” “but a little showing off is just fine,” “turnabout is fair play,” “don’t forget your enemies,” “share the wealth,” and “ignore the scrooges.”

But as Marcel Mauss made clear in his monumental study of potlatch, the point is social solidarity, and it appears that that point hasn’t been forgotten.

Even in hard economic times, the potlatch has always been the structure that enables people in our society to work together

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