The Give-Away Ceremony

(from Robbie, Otter Woman Standing – Visionary of the Fire Dance)

The Teaching

One of the most important ceremonies in Native American teachings is the Give-Away, or Potlatch, Ceremony. In this ritual, giving away of useful or loved possessions is a form of sharing with others. It is also a sign that the giver is willing to make a sacrifice and surrender a gift to another person without attachment or regret. The Native understanding of sacrifice originally meant “to make sacred”. To make any act or any gift sacred, one has to complete that action with a joyful heart and a humble attitude. Giving is only one step of the process and allows the giver to look within so that he or she may examine the growth potential associated with the Give-Away.

In Native Tradition, no one is ever abandoned, orphaned, or left without food, dwellings, or help. The understanding among Native people is that when one shares all that one has, in order that the People may live, honor and abundance is brought to the giver. Indians have extended families that adopt many relatives and care for one another. Those who are blessed with possessions and food have always shared with those who are lacking. The Medicine Wheel may turn tomorrow and the ones who are in need today, may be blessed with abundance that they may share.

The purpose of the Give-Away is sharing. The lessons connected to this ceremony teach the people how to release possessions and to let go the ideas of importance connected with those belongings. The more prized the possession and the greater the sense of ownership, the more potent the lesson. The Give-Away Ceremony is never used to get rid of belongings that are no longer functional or badly in need of repair. Some gifts of the Give-Away may be made especially for the occasion. To give cast-off items is a disgrace to the giver and shows a lack of respect for the receiver.

If one cannot give without strings attached, there is no true release and the sacredness of giving without expectations has been destroyed. Among the Tribes of Native America, if everyone was not taken care of, the People lost face. There was never any justification for some to live in luxury while others of the same tribe starved.

The teachings of the Give-Away are basic to Native understanding. Many other lessons are learned each time one has the opportunity to share and is faced with personal feelings that arise when a decision to Give-Away is made. As we free ourselves from the need to give with strings attached or the regret that sometimes follows, we are able to release our spirits and allow them to soar beyond the limited understanding of our former Selves.