Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
A basic theme underlying Athabaskan culture and the potlatch is the duality of competition and cooperation. In the literature on both the Northwest Coast and Athabaskan potlatch this duality is most often considered in one of two ways: as a cultural phenomenon which is functional and ahistorical in nature, or as a product of Native and White contact. In this study I take a less radical view. Within Athabaskan culture and the potlatch cooperation and competition exist in a historically reticulate duality which provides the internal dynamic in Northern Athabaskan culture and continues to motivate attempts to redefine the culture and the potlatch.
In the context of political and economic domination, however, the duality becomes an opposition in which competition is submerged and reshaped into a symbol for the White man, while cooperation becomes a symbol for unity and Indianness. The resulting ideology, or "Indian way," becomes a critique of the current situation and a vision of things as they should be. The potlatch is the major arena in which this vision derived from the past is reproduced.
Simeone, William E., "Identity, History and the Athabaskan Potlatch" (1990). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2677.