By Martha B

If you have been in International Neighbors for even a few months, you will have heard of a
potluck which is where people bring food to share. If you attend International Day, you will
know that we have a table where members leave items that they no longer need and take items
that they can use. And, coming up at the December IN Day, we will be bringing sweet or savory
items to swap with others. These are all common American exchange traditions.

But have you heard of a Potlatch? Although this is a Native American tradition going back
centuries, most Americans have never heard of it. You might say that Potlatch is the ultimate
exchanging of one’s possessions.

A Potlatch is an extravagant ceremonial feast at which a tribal leader gives away most or all of
his possessions. Usually commemorating a birth, marriage or other major event, Potlatches were common during the winter months, since in summer months people were preoccupied with acquiring possessions.

In holding a Potlatch, a rich person demonstrates power. But frankly, the cultural expectation is
for others in the village to reciprocate. Perhaps this might allow the host to get back some of his
own possessions OR replace possessions with new items! What a unique way to be thankful for,
and share, the bounty of one’s life.

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