The Potlatch ceremonies of the tribes along the Pacific coast of British Columbia were an intrinsic part of cultural, social, and religious life. The ability of local leaders to give away their goods to others established the measure of their greatness, but the result was often the impoverishment of community leaders. This practice stood in direct contrast to Western ideals of private property that dictated that those with the greatest accumulation of goods were the most highly regarded members of the community. Missionaries saw the Potlatch ceremonies as antithetical to converting Aboriginal people to Christianity and encouraged the authorities to ban such events. Discouragement of Native religious cultural rituals became part of the means by which the Department of Indian Affairs encouraged assimilation and attempted to impose adoption of the "Canadian" way of life on Natives. The banning of the Potlatch, in an amendment to the Indian Act in 1884, was one of the first overt official steps in the effort to erase Native culture.

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Chinook Multimedia


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