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The Kwakiutl Indian Tribe Potlatch Ritual

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Phase 1 Individual Project – The Kwakiutl Indian Tribe Potlatch Ritual
Michael Chargualaf
Colorado Technical University Online

The Kwakiutl Indian Tribe Potlatch Ritual
In trying to understand the topic of a Kwakiutl chief burning his family’s possessions during a potlatch, one must research the background, history, and makeup of these people to determine the reason for this ritual. From a distant view of the topic, one would interpret this as an act of lunacy and pointless in every aspect. But with all irrational acts or behaviors, one must look deeper before making judgment. And even then, what may seem illogical to you based on your cultural beliefs may be typical for other cultural groups.
The Kwakiutl Indians, located in the Vancouver Islands, live along the coast line. They comprise of a number of tribes and are subdivided into family lines called “numaym”. Numayn is believed by the tribe members as being descendants from a mystical ancestor. It is in this belief that seems to determine a tribe member’s social ranking within the tribe.
Economically, the Kwakiutl, are considered to have an abundance of wealth in terms of food and other natural resources. With their close proximity to the ocean, it is naturally assumed that their main source of food comes from the sea and that they are a tribe of fishermen. While mostly true, they also specialize in woodworking and handcrafts such as making baskets, mats, and blankets. The Kwakiutls, however, spend little of their time on food gathering. The vast majority of their time is spent on social structure and status.
Within these tribes (numayms) there exists a social structure with an appointed chief, noblemen, commoner, and/or slaves. The appointed chief comes from a lineage of previous chiefs, the noblemen are reserved for the first born of families of rank, and the commoners are the younger

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