Native Spirit of Giving
Terrance Henry Booth, Sr., Tsimshian
For Americans giving comes for birthdays, anniversaries, going away parties, welcoming new ones into the world and mostly American giving happens during Christmas.
In contrast for Alaska Native and Native American Tribes Spirit of giving is a lifelong undertaking that is deeply part of tribal culture. For Tsimshian Tribe a potlatch is one of giving and distribution of wealth from one individual to another. The Gift has special meaning for the more given away the higher the status of one receiving gifts readily marks the occasion of giving as a true remembrance of the happening and purpose of the potlatch. In potlatch setting it serves as a memorial showing transfer of power or elevating a rising hereditary chief among the existing Chiefs of the Tsimshian. Some of the Chiefs having the same Native name over several decades so the importance of potlatch is to show the importance of becoming a Chief are transfer of power of that particular Chief. So giving is well known among the Tsimshian people of both Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. The British Columbia Tsimshian have more cultural meaning to their ceremonies such as a potlatch memorializes the occasion and becoming part of their tribal cultural history.
Among the Tsimshian their ancestors were well-known on most of the Pacific Coast from Alaska down to near South America. Another form of giving is bartering and the Angoon and Yakutat will know the Tsimshian for today their entrance songs are given to them from the Tsimshian. Prior to singing of these songs the Tlingit Dancers announce how they received these Tsimshian Songs. Yakutat Tlingit use to have Native games and the Tsimshian were supposed to guess what animal or bird or mammal they were mimicking. The Tsimshian traders did not guess the different animals so the Tsimshian left a Tsimshian to learn their Tsimshian songs which are still song today. So bartering was a tribal way of gaining wealth and they did this by trading and bartering. This was a form of economic giving a trading and bartering economy. So giving played an important role for the Tsimshian Nation. One tribal Tsimshian Chief had nine monopolies and had command of the movement of goods and services during the expansion and growth of British Columbia. This economy is awaking among the northern Tsimshian of Port Simpson, Metlakatla and Terrace, British Columbia who now are internationally trading with China with lumber and timber and seafood. So giving has taken on a new transition to that of commercializing their natural resources and greatly bring wealth to their tribal members and villages.
So Native giving has deep rooted history and the Tsimshian Nation is awakening trade through international trade with China businesses. The spirit of giving takes on a new meaning where there is now a commercial exchange of goods and services.
Giving by Native to another gives giver an opportunity to create a spirit of meaning to the receiver. It is marking an event that has a remembrance to it and gift marks the occasion of exchange where both giver and receiver have memorialized the occasion of why the giving took place. Since it the holiday season buys Native goods, arts, produce and not only support individual’s tribal businesses but helps them keep their business going. Like our ancestors the more given away brings status, prestige and a memory versus just giving a gift because it is the season to give. Native gifts can be long remembered, has a marked occasion, Native Gifts mean something versus returning it after Christmas. It has a life and giver choices gifts that well be remembered. Make it a season of Native Giving and buy Native for beats the crowd shopping online.