Native Potlatch Party!

Canada’s Natives Long Ago Conclusion Party!!

It’s our series finale for Canada’s Natives Long Ago! In the fall my friend, Janet, who homeschools her youngest two children, and I, with my children, met weekly for me to teach “Canada’s Natives Long Ago” by Donna Ward (you can buy it here, or if you’re Canadian you can buy it here), and Janet to teach The Human Body. We had such a great time together! Most things around here were closed because of Covid-19(like our beloved homeschool co-op), so it was a wonderful alternative. The children still got to learn see some friends, and we Mums got a chance to chat and have cups of tea.

I shared our first craft (DIY Wigwam) that I made to compliment the curriculum over four months ago, with breaks for many other wonderful craft tutorials. Thanks for sticking with me through this series. These Native Canadian crafts have gotten a great response from readers, so thank you! If you missed the other posts, I’ll give you the links at the end of this one!

We planned our Potlatch for our last meeting before Christmas, at which time we also, tragically, were put under restrictions because of Covid-19, making it so only members of one family could be in a home. So instead of meeting inside and doing all the crafts and activities indoors, I made a Party-In-A-Bag for Janet’s children, which included the snack and craft, then we met together in my backyard to have a party.


First of All, Jessica, What is a Potlatch?

I’m so glad you asked. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

a ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation

So there you have it – we got to have a party!

What was in the Party-In-A-Bag?

The party-in-a-bag contained the snack craft supplies, Marshmallow Igloos (you can peruse the instructions, see the pictures and read and warnings by clicking here.), and the necessaries for decorating masks. You can see a Potlatch mask by visiting this site from the Khan Academy. Our masks were purely celebratory, and looked like this:

It’s just half of a paper plate with eye and nose holes cut out. Then I tied on some string by punching holes in the sides. The kids stuck onto their masks whatever they wanted, like stickers, tissue paper pieces, glitter and pom-poms. My son (not pictured) had feathers on his!


The Outdoor Portion of the Potlatch

Setting: It was a snowy, but fairly mild day, with the sun shining down on us. We gathered around the fire and I cooked a lunch of fish and bannock over the camp stove. I had high hopes of cooking over the fire, but that was a bit too much.

Lunch:

I breaded the fish ahead of time (just with cornmeal and flour) and prepared the bannock in little pucks, so all I had to do was cook both. Janet brought beef jerky, cheese and crackers. We pretended the cheese was birds stuffed into a seal carcass and left underground for 6 months. The kids didn’t like that idea🤷‍♀️, they thought it was gross. That’s a real Inuit delicacy, though. They still make it in Greenland, it’s called Kiviak. You can learn more here…if you want to. Do you notice the lack of fruits and veggies? That was intentional because at this time of year fruits and veg were hard to come by for the Native Canadians (and many Native Americans, too).


Games:

Gift Exchange:

You can see the bannock ready to go in the background…and tea -mmmm! Also, Janet brought the kids hot chocolate, bless her.

At a Potlatch the chief would have lavish gifts to bestow on his guests; each host would try to outdo the previous host. To replicate this custom, child drew the name of another child in the group the week before the party. Then they each chose something from home to give away (no spending money), wrapped it, and brought it to the Potlatch. They all had fun opening their little gifts.

Drying Buffalo Meat:

I can’t give you the details of this game, because it’s in the curriculum (under “Natives of the Plains”). I almost didn’t do it because it didn’t seem like it would be fun, but the kids loved it (until one kept getting hit over and over again on the head with a stick…oops😬). And maybe you don’t get this lame joke, but the strips are supposed to be buffalo meat, so the fabric I chose was buffalo plaid 😂🙄.

Playing in the Forest:

This is such a simple thing to do, but the kids love it so much. The bonus for us is that in the forest by our house there are two structures: a teepee and a wigwam. They’re not huge or authentic, but boy are they fun. The kids practiced much of what they had learned over the weeks, having battles, using tools, gathering food…it was awesome!

Janet and her kids went straight home from the forest and our Potlatch was over. I took my kids home, bundled them under blankets and gave them some warm tea. It had been a great day outside! We learned so much in this series, and had such a blast doing it!


Links to “Canada’s Natives Long Ago” Craft Series:

Here are the links to the full craft series. Please like, comment and share if you enjoyed these crafts! Looking back at these pictures makes me so proud of my little kiddies, and all that they learned. The book by Donna Ward was so awesome and we all learned so much (though we let the 3- and 4-year-olds come and go as they pleased!). I highly recommend it, and even if you don’t, you can still do all these crafts!

Week One – Eastern Woodland Hunters DIY Wigwam Craft:

Week Two – Inuit of the Arctic Soap Carving for Kids:

Week Three – Natives of the Plains DIY Parfleche:

Week Four: Natives of the Plateau Mini Basket Weaving:

Week Five: Natives of the Subarctic Tumpline/Belt/Headband Craft:

Week Six: Natives of the Pacific Northwest Totem Pole from a Paper Towel Roll Craft:

Bonus Snack Craft! Marshmallow Igloo:


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