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The ceremony usually corresponded with a person's change in social status, for example, marriage, birth, death, and coming of age.
It included a feast, singing and costumed dancers, and some potlatches lasted as long as two to three weeks.
The belief was that they had the power to do all those things through an ability to communicate with the spirit world.
Some examples of gifts: canoes, slaves, carved dishes, and eulachon oil.
While this may seem paradoxical, the logic was simple: the more one gave away, the greater one’s prestige (metalcraft.
While some copper came from local sources, most came from whaling ships, both as cargo brought in for trade and as scrap peeled from the hulls of wrecked ships.
They were instead memorial documents, recording the social position, wealth, and relative importance of the person who had paid for the pole.
Because family lineage, class status, wealth, and other social facts were thus recorded, it was possible to gain an “introduction” to the village chief or house owner by simply examining the tall pole.