Potlatch and Powwow: Dynamics of Culture through Lives Lived Dancing

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

Publication Date



In collaboration with the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations’ U’mista Cultural Centre and the Nez Perce Tribe’s Cultural Resources Program, our research addresses aspects of the recent history and contemporary roles of dance in their societies from the dancers’ perspectives. The social science literature commonly documents the cultural history of dances and their performance within one or associated Canadian First Nations and Native American societies or considers broader issues of Native peoples’ sociocultural identity and poli-tics that event participants and attendees may be expressing. We have focused on dance from the dancer’s experiential level, while their bodies become the locus of complex levels of meanings. This study includes two groups from very different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and the contexts of Nez Perce powwow and Kwakwaka'wakw potlatch also are quite distinctive. However, addressing what is meaningful to the dancers reveals commonalities as well as variation in issues of Native peoples’ cultural maintenance, adaptation, and innovation, while contributing insights on identity issues as the dancers’ individual experiences are embedded in wider sociopolitcal contexts.


This article was originally published in American Indian Culture and Research Journal. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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American Indian Culture and Research Journal