Pacific Northwest offers reason to celebrate in Union potlatch

On Friday, March 28, Geneseo Anthropology Association and Men of Action and Change immersed students in the culture of the Northwest coast, bringing the tradition of potlatch to the Union lobby.

Students across campus were invited to wash their old clothes and bring them to the event. They were then entitled to take half the number of clothes they brought out of the piles that quickly built up on a number of tables. Shortly after the potlatch began at 10 p.m., several stacks of clothes included various brands and styles of shirts and pants. By the end of the night at 1 a.m., the total collection filled nine large garbage bags, all of which were donated to the homeless.

A slideshow ran throughout the night to display information about the peoples of the Northwest coast. The clothing exchange was also spiced up with a small buffet of vegetables, bread, dip and chocolates, and a variety of crafts engaged students in other native traditions. Coloring sheets with elaborate patterns were distributed to take home. Students could also design different kinds of masks, an integral element of the coastal culture.

According to junior David Bliss, a member of both GAA and MAC, "I think it went well, and there's talk of doing it next year too. Most people took part in the tapestry coloring, so I think that will carry over to future potlatches."

GAA member Trisha Davies, a sophomore, was also pleased with the turnout and outcome of the event.

"I feel like it was a success in that the activities were vehicles for talking about the peoples of the Northwest coast," she said, "and the displays and explanations were a great way to familiarize and reinforce them."