Food and Feasting

Feasting was very different than everyday eating and this is reflected in the material culture. Dishes, spoons, and ladles used in potlatch supported notions of rank and identity. While simple horn and wooden spoons were for normal everyday use; the feast utensils are elaborately decorated, as seen below. In addition, there was a sharp contrast bewteen the plain bowls used on a daily basis and the feast dishes, which were highly carved or painted. Feast dishes were often huge, reflecting the emphasis on quantity as the sign of a generous host. Some feast dishes were as large as small canoes, capable of serving five people at once.

Everyday Use Spoons and Dishes
Horn Spoon; Tsimshian: Gitksan
PMAE # 14-27-10/85832
Horn Spoon; Kwakiutl
PMAE # 17-17-10/87141


Food Tray; Kwakiutl
PMAE # 17-17-10/87147

Guests were seated at potlatches on the basis of status and were served with great formality by their hosts. High ranking individuals, such as chiefs, were served first and given the choicest food in greater quantities than other guests. Such honored guests also used the host's most elaborate feast dishes, which were heirlooms depicting family or clan crests.

Special Feasting Spoons and Dishes
Horn Feasting Spoon; Tsimshian
PMAE # 14-27-10/85897
Horn Feating Spoon; Tsimshian
PMAE # 14-27-10/85897.2
Feast Dish; Tlingit
PMAE # 985-27-10/58934
Feast Dish; Kwakiutl
PMAE # 17-17-10/87176


Feast Dish; Kwakiutl
PMAE # 05-7-10/65457

Previous Page