Student groups benefit charity through cultural experience

On April 10, Geneseo's Men of Action and Change and Anthropology Association collaborated with several other groups in hosting their second annual Potlatch.

The organizations also sought help from Geneseo Environmental Organization and Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development.

The event, their adaption of a traditional Native American potlatch, took place in the Union lobby from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. and provided students with the opportunity to partake in various aspects of an ancient tradition.

To create a hands-on cultural experience, a craft table provided supplies for students to color traditional Native American designs and patterns to be combined into a totem pole.

"It's really fun to learn about different totem pole designs," said Daniel Solow, a freshman participating in the activity. "They're very colorful."

"We wanted to make this both an educational and a charitable event," said MAC senior David Bliss. "We have the crafts so that people can learn about the imagery of the culture."

Bliss noted that a big part of the potlatch tradition is wealth distribution, which they implemented through a clothing swap. Participants were invited bring any clothing they no longer wanted and either exchange it for the same amount of clothing or simply leave theirs to be donated. Remaining clothing was given to Chances & Changes, a Livingston County domestic violence program. Another facet of the distribution tradition was the awarding of prizes every half hour.

"Redistributing wealth is a nice way for people to come together and give back to the community," said Anthropology Association President senior Jennifer Ritzenthaler.

In addition to the crafts and clothing exchange, food was provided in order to mimic the nature of the traditional potlatch. Throughout the event, a PowerPoint presentation was displayed in order to provide additional information about the potlatch tradition, adding depth and interest to the activities. "This way people can learn about what the potlatch actually is," said Solow.

"I think one of the reasons we did this was to educate the campus about a cultural history and to share that culture with the campus, as well as find ways to give back," said MAC senior Scott Snowden. "I get satisfaction knowing that I can make someone else happy adding to culture."