Moveable feasts: Chronicles of "potlatching" among the Tsimshian, 1860s-1900s
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts
This article considers Tsimshian feasting activities from the 1860s to the turn of the century. It is informed by the remarkable diary of a Tsimshian, Arthur Wellington Clah. It takes up the analysis where Robert Grumet left it in his article in Ethnohistory in 1975. Clah's day- by- day account shows how support for feasting and the chiefly system it reinforced waxed and waned over forty years. For a time after a permanent missionary came to their village of Fort Simpson, Tsimshian feasts became Christian festivals as the community dispensed with chiefs and the transmission of chiefly names before reverting to chiefdoms when the need for strong leadership was recognized to deal with land alienation and other threats to community cohesion and survival. Clah's day- by- day diary over fifty years is an ethnohistorical source that presents change over an extended timeframe, with insights into feasting that cannot be gained from travelers' and anthropologists' brief visits to the northwest Pacific coast.