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The Kwakiutl are an American Indian tribe that live on the northern shore of Vancouver Island in British Columbia and on the adjacent mainland in a country with a coastline almost as long and inletted per square mile of territory as that of Norway Bohannon 1966 The Kwakiutl are significant in that they engage in a very unique form of exchange known as potlatching A potlatch was a ceremonial given by a chief and his group as hosts to guests composed of another chief or chiefs with their respective groups at which the guests were given wealth goods as gifts Drucker 1967 Kottak 1982 defines a potlatch as a festive event where assisted by other members of their communities sponsors gave away food blankets pieces of copper and other items In return for this they got prestige To give a potlatch enhanced a sons reputation and prestige increased with the lavishness of the potlatch and the value of the goods given away with it Bohannon 1966 offers another definition of the potlatch The word potlatch is derived from the Chinook language and it means gift The potlatch is a ceremonial occasion on which one exchanges or gives gifts to ones rival who is a man occupying a status closest to ones own in the ranked hierarchy Potlatch involves the giving of property by one holder of a position to the holder of an equal or higher position The former does this to maintain the glory of the rank he holds and the glory of the ancestors from who he inherited the position Bohannon 1966 The Kwakiutl are more obsessed with rank than most other peoples in the world They created artificial shortages and their striving for high social position was an integral part of the economy In addition there was an organisation made up of a number of ranked but heredity officers
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