POTLATCH Alert Bay, British Columbia

The first time I ever remember hearing the word "Potlatch" was on the television show Northern Exposure. Wikipedia describes it as:
a festival or ceremony practiced among Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. At these gatherings a family or hereditary leader hosts guests in their family house and hold a feast for their guests. The main purpose of the potlatch is the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth.
The two real photo postcards below show a Potlatch in Alert Bay, British Columbia. There is no other information given so I have no idea when the photos were taken.

Click on either image to see it larger.

Alert Bay, B.C_Indian Potlatch_tatteredandlost

Indian Potlach_Alert Bay British Columbia_tatteredandlost

Alert Bay is a small community of around 556 on Cormorant Island. It was named in 1860 after the Royal Navy ship HMS Alert. According to their Wikipedia listing they have:
one automatic teller machine, one grocery store and one museum in Alert Bay. The town is served by a public-use airport, the Alert Bay Airport. Alert Bay is also home to the world's tallest totem pole.
Typical of the history of North America in relation to the native people, the Potlatch was banned in both Canada and the United States:
largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was seen as wasteful, unproductive which was not part of "civilized" values.
I'm thinking it's pretty obvious who the uncivilized people were and it wasn't those going to a Potlatch.

To read about Alert Bay click on this link. It looks like a little bit of heaven on earth.


  1. Anonymous6/04/2009

    Uhh. I must correct you. The first time you heard POTLATCH was on a post card from Alaska, 1968. 69, 70 71 72, 73, etc. Long before Northern Exposure I sent you the word.

  2. You are right. Unfortunately the first time I remember it was Marilyn wrapped in a blanket dancing on Northern. You know me and forgetting.

  3. Anonymous6/05/2009

    You can't possibly have forgotten receiving, probably dozens of copies of, that Potlatch photo!....?... Okay. you could.

  4. Oh you know how I need you around to remind me of the details that I've all but forgotten. Tonight I'm going to open up the big chest where the postcards are stashed and go down memory lane. You should be here to do it with me. You have the details. I have the imaginary details.