Potlatch means to give – Chief Bill Cranmer
Many people believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who has a lot. The people who speak Kwak´wala, the Kwakwaka’wakw, believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who gives the most away. Since a time beyond memory, the Kwakwaka’wakw have been hosting potlatches and potlatching continues to play a central and unifying role in the community life today.
The word potlatch means to give and come from a trade jargon, Chinook, formerly used along the Pacific coast of Canada. Guests witnessing the event are given gifts. The more gifts given, the higher the status is achieved by the potlatch host. The potlatch ceremony marks the important occasions in the lives of the Kwakwaka’wakw: The naming of children, marriage, transferring rights and privileges and mourning the dead.
It is a time for pride-time for showing the masks and dances owned by the chief or a host giving the potlatch. It is time for joy. When one's heart is glad, he gives away gifts. Our creator gave it to us, to be our way of doing things, to be our way of rejoicing, we who are the Kwakwaka’wakw. Everyone on earth is given something. The potlatch was given to us to be our way of expressing joy- Axu Alfred.
K´inamida baxwas nik´ikala he’me olak´ala łok´wimasida ‘namukw bagwanam k´ika’eda xa ‘naxwa. ‘Yax’ida kwak´wala bibaxwasa, ‘yaxa Kwakwaka’wakw, He’am nik´iges he’yeda o’am hayulis ‘yakwa k´ik´a’eda, dłu’ łok´wimasa. ‘Yu’misuxda Kwakwaka’wakwex o’am hayulis p´asa’, gełagawe’ sa ‘malgwał. Ox’semisux p´asa xux da ‘nalax ka’eda gwayalelas ‘nagalłtawe’ su’wa, o’am awil’goła i’axali da ’namima.
He’am gwibała sa dłigam- Potlatch-xa ‘Yakwa, gayuł laxa dzanuk´wala, ‘Yak´andasesa gax laxan’s awi’nakolax. He’mida tłi’lanam kas xit´saxale ‘yakwa su’wa. La’mis o’am ‘waladzanakwali dłigamesi gigame’ le k´inamis ’yak´wima. He’am p´asa giłsa Kwakwaka’wakw ka’eda, dłikala xa sasam, kadzitła dła’wida layu laxa ła’wanam, dła’wida salige’ xa ‘yax’idi.
La’mis olak´ala nixtł tłamkanxa- La’eda Gigame’ nił’id sis leda, ‘ya’exwamł dła’wida ‘yiyaxwała’ena’yi. Olak´ala ika’mas xa ni’noka’yi. He’am ‘yakwida ikis noka’yi. He’am gaxus sa gax’id ax’alisa gaxan’s laxuxda awi’nagwisex. Gaxu kan’s ixk´asale laxan’s gwayalelasi, Kwakwaka’wakwegan’s. ‘Wi’la’mida gax ax’alidzam t´sosusa gwayalelas. Gaxuxw’ida p´asa gaxan’s ka o’mes niłałan’s ixk´asala’ina’yi- niki Axu.
The Meaning of U’mista – Chief Bill Cranmer
In earlier days, people were sometimes taken captive by raiding parties. When they returned to their homes, either through payment of ransom or by raid, they were said to have U’mista. The return of our treasures from distant museums and others is a form of U’mista. That is why our old people suggested that this building which houses the Potlatch Collection be called U’mista.
The Potlatch was illegal by the Canadian Law from 1885 to 1951 under the Indian Act. The Potlatch Collection housed in the U’mista was taken from our people under an illegal agreement that if our chiefs signed a court document and promised not to potlatch until the law was changed, more of our people would not be charged and sent to prison. Our people were charged and tried for attending Chief Dan Cranmer’s potlatch in 1921. As it was 26 of our old people were sent to prison. Most of our treasures have returned home and are housed in the U’mista at Alert Bay and the ’Nuyambalis at Cape Mudge.
Laxa kwisała ‘nala. Nałnamp´ana ‘winasu’wida bi’baxwas. Layu’ lax awi’nagwises sa ‘wina. Gwix’idas mis gax a’edaka lax gukwalases le kalwisu sis ‘wi’wa’okw dłu’ ku lalax ugwaka ‘wina. Lamis niksu U’mista gaxe ‘ne’nakwa. Lamisan’s k´walsk´wal’yakw nik ka ‘wigesux U’mista xala su’wuxda gaxex ga’etłalas san’s Mi’maya’anłex.
‘Wala’okwida p´asa lax’ida k´adadzoi laxa Indian Act. gexi lax 1885 laga’ lax 1951. Dadalit’a’su’wan’s k´walsk´walyakw le gige’ xa tłilanames Palnakwala ‘Wakas le p´asa laxa kwisała ‘nala 1921. Lax’idamisu’xw ‘namaxas dłu’ łinanama’su’wuxda Maya’anłex Lax’ide dadalit´a’su’wan’s k´walsk´walyakw lax 1922. xwaldadzu’wan’s Gi’gigame’ xa gwagwa’ł nix’da’xw. Isetłi p´asatł isme’ t´ła’yusu’wida Indian Act, ka ises ‘walxi’su’wida aługwala. k´at´łagolida ‘walitła. La’misux ‘wi’la gax a’edakuxda’ Maya’anłex gex’id laxa ‘walas hi’humuwilasa dłu’wida aługwala laxudayuxida, la’misux ga’etłala laxuxda U’mista lax ‘Yalis dłu’wida ‘Nuyambalis lax ‘Wiweka’yi.