Slavery in the Native Northwest Coast Cultures
The Bella Bella were members of the Kwakiutl tribes, which lived from Gardner Canal to Rivers Inlet. They spoke the Heiltsuk dialect and are perhaps best remembered for their master craftsmanship and elaborate ceremonies. They lived by the sea, which provided them with an abundance of food, leaving them leisure time for arts and ceremonial feasts. Winter was the social season when lengthy feasts and ceremonies were held. The potlatch was perhaps the most popular of these. In a society that was strictly ruled by rank, the Bella Bella found it necessary to occasionally display and reassert that rank. For a person's social position was determined primarily by the inheritance of names and privileges, such as the right to sing certain songs, and use certain crests. The potlatch was the perfect opportunity to partake of those special privileges. And, for the guests, there were gifts, which made them formal witnesses to the titles and privileges of their host. Potlatches were usually held to celebrate important life events, for face-saving purposes, or to prove one's right to some position or privilege within the tribe.…
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