In 2009, Renee and I, along with a few college students arrived by ferry to Kake, Alaska expecting to make a difference in the community. What we found was a very welcoming place full of people who loved to play basketball, eat good seafood, fish and have enjoyed life in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I often say we came to bless the community, but in the end, it was us who were blessed beyond measure. On our last day in Kake, way back in 2009, the community came together in a Potlatch and sent us off with good food and kind words. A few words I would use to describe Kake and its people is generous, authentic, abundant, kind, and faith warriors.
Churches didn’t invent the “Potlatch,” Alaskan Natives did!
Potlatches are an integral part of Tlingit history and modern-day life. A potlatch is a giant feast that marks a time for showing respect, paying debts, and displaying wealth. Tlingit people give grandly at potlatches to raise their stature. The respect and honor held toward one’s ancestry, name, house crest, and family, and the extent of one’s wealth might determine how elaborate a potlatch would be; these ceremonies are not, however, forms of worship to any gods. Potlatches are given for various reasons and may be planned for years in advance. The most common potlatches given today are funeral potlatches, the 40-Day Party, memorial potlatches, adoption potlatches, naming potlatches, totem-pole-raising potlatches, and house- or lodge-building potlatches.
Any college student that is looking for an adventure this summer should consider going to Kake! Get the chance to catch a king salmon, become part of the Tlingit community, play some good basketball, and make friendships that will last a lifetime.
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