On This Day: In 1884 an amendment to the Indian Act in Canada was passed making the potlatch illegal. Largely passed at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it “a worse than useless custom” that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to “civilized” values. Section 3 of the Act read, “Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the “Potlatch” or the Indian dance known as the “Tamanawas” is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not more than six nor less than two months in any gaol or other place of confinement; and, any Indian or other person who encourages, either directly or indirectly, an Indian or Indians to get up such a festival or dance, or to celebrate the same, or who shall assist in the celebration of same is guilty of a like offence, and shall be liable to the same punishment.” The ban was only repealed in 1951. This is a photo from a 1914 potlatch in Alert Bay, British Columbia given by Bob Harris.
I am currently studying to become a highschool education teacher (specifically a social studies one) and I think that First Nations history in Canada is often ignored (much to our detriment). Post topics like this one are good ways to remember Canada’s colonial history and should be brought up in our schools. So thank-you for this; it just reaffirmed my passion for decolonizing history.