Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch (Exhibition)

Show/Hide All Variant Names

Exist Dates

1991 October 18 - 1992 February 23

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Exhibition. Opened October 18, 1991 and closed February 23, 1992. Located in Section 3, Floor 3 in Gallery 3 at the American Museum of Natural History. Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlach explored the artwork, rituals, and feast of potlatch ceremonies of the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) people of the Northwest Coast of North America.

Summary

Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlach explored the artwork, rituals, and feast of potlatch ceremonies of the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) people of the Northwest Coast of North America, a ceremony the Canadian government had outlawed between 1884 and 1951. The exhibition was organized by the American Museum of Natural History with guest curator Gloria Cramner Webster, high-ranking Kwakiutl, great-granddaughter of Boas expedition member George Hunt, and retired director of the U'mista Cultural Centre in British Columbia; Museum vice president of Public Programs, Aldona Jonaitis, expert on Native Northwest Coast art; and special curatorial assistant, Peter Macnair, curator of anthropology at the Royal British Columbia Museum. The Museum collaborated with the Kwakiutl people in developing the exhibition. A delegation of elders visited the Museum, providing information on collections and translating Kwakwala texts (1).

Many objects in the exhibition had never before been on display and were collected by Museum anthropologist Franz Boas on an expedition that included field assistant George Hunt who was raised in the Kwakiutl community. Hunt collected hundreds of artworks and recorded description of Kwakiutl culture, including potlatch ceremonies (1).

In addition to Gloria Cramner Webster, two more great-grandchildren of George Hunt, artists Tony and Calvin Hunt contributed to the exhibition. Tony Hunt served as consultant and was represented by two masks. Calvin Hunt recreated two artifacts, the nulamista and sisiyutl board, as the originals were too fragile to exhibit (2).

The exhibition opened with a reenactment of a potlatch ceremony with Kwakiutl Indians dressed in full regalia and traveling up the Hudson River to the Museum's Hall of Ocean Life where they performed traditional masked dances (3, p. 7). Programs related to the exhibition included demonstrations of traditional mask carving by Kwakiutl artist Kevin Cranmer and totem pole carving by Kwakiutl artist Richard Hunt in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, a dance performance by the Wewanagila Dance Company of Vancouver, British Columbia, and a documentary film series (4; 5)

The exhibition was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Council on the Arts, the Estate of Thayer Lindsley, and the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust (PR). Following its run at the American Museum of Natural History, the exhibition traveled to the Royal British Columbia Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Seattle Museum of Art (1).

Artifacts and topics covered included (6):

*7-foot-long Dzonokwa bowl

*Examples of lavish gifts given to guests by potlatch hosts, such as coppers, crocheted articles, and household goods

*Songs and dances

*Musical instruments

*Mythology

*Masks

*Late 19th century photographs of Kwakiutl villages and potlatch ceremonies

This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. "'Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch' Opens in Gallery 3." Grapevine (September/October 1991).
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. "Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch." [1991] [brochure]
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1991-1992.
    (4) American Museum of Natural History. "Kwakiutl Indian Dances, Masks & Music." [1991] Special Collections Vertical Files. American Museum of Natural History Library. [flyer]
    (5) American Museum of Natural History. "Free Programs in Conjunction with Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch." 1991. Special Collections Vertical Files. American Museum of Natural History Library. [flyer]
    (6) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "'Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch' National Opening in October." April 29, 1991. Special Collections Vertical Files. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    For more information on this exhibition see:
    "Museum Adds a 500-Pound Indian Artifact." New York Times, September 25, 1991.

Terms

localDescription
temporary exhibition
localDescription
enhanced
place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Section 3, Floor 3

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

American Museum of Natural History. Gallery 3.
Location of exhibition 1991 October 18 – 1992 February 23
American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Northwest Coast Indians.
Location of related demonstrations (5)
Boas, Franz 1858-1942
Originally collected material featured in exhibition during Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902) with George Hunt (1)
California Academy of SciencesExternal link
Institutional partner (1)
Cramner, Kevin
Artist, mask-carving demonstration (5)
Hunt, Calvin
Artist, recreated nulamista and sisiyutl boards; great-grandson of George Hunt (2)
Hunt, George
Originally collected material featured in exhibition during Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902) with Franz Boas (1)
Hunt, Richard, 1951-External link
Artist, totem poles (5)
Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902)
Material collected by George Hunt and Franz Boas displayed in exhibition (1)
John Ben Snow Memorial Trust
Funder (2)
Jonaitis, Aldona 1948-
Curator of exhibition; Museum vice president of Public Programs; expert on Native Northwest Coast art (1)
Macnair, Peter L.External link
Special curatorial assistant for exhibition; curator of anthropology at the Royal British Columbia Museum (1)
National Endowment for the HumanitiesExternal link
Funder (2)
New York State Council on the ArtsExternal link
Funder (2)
Royal British Columbia MuseumExternal link
Institutional partner (1)
Seattle Art MuseumExternal link
Institutional partner (1)
Smithsonian InstitutionExternal link
Institutional partner (1)
Thayer Lindsley Estate
Funder (2)
Webster, Gloria Cranmer
Guest curator for exhibition; Kwakiutl elder and great-granddaughter of George Hunt; retired director of the U'mista Cultural Centre in British Columbia (1)
Wewanagila Dance Company
Related performance (4)

Related Resources

American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1991-1992: 7, 60, 62, 64, 66, 69, 71, 77, 79, 83.
American Museum of Natural History annual reports, 1902-2001.
Freed, Stanley A. "Annual Report Department of Anthropology Annual Archival Report July 1, 1988 – June 30, 1989": 15 [1989]
American Museum of Natural History photographic drawers
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [Black and white contact sheets and photograph of exhibition in preparation and on view; color contact sheets of related programs]
American Museum of Natural History press releases, 1933-1990s.
"'Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch' National Opening in October." April 29, 1991.
American Museum of Natural History vertical files
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [News articles, events flyers, exhibition brochure, photocopy of Grapevine, press release]
subjectOf
Chiefly feasts : the enduring Kwakiutl potlatch / edited by Aldona Jonaitis ; with essays by Douglas Cole ... [et al.] ; and special editorial help by Peter Macnair.
Date of resource: 1991 
subjectOf
Chiefly feasts : the enduring Kwakiutl potlatch. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
Date of resource: 1977-1991; 8 videorecordings
subjectOf
Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch exhibition photographic slides. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
subjectOf
Chiefly Feasts: the Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch photographic slide collection, 1992. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
Grapevine.
"'Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlach' Opens in Gallery 3" (September/October 1991)
subjectOf
Richard Hunt carving totem pole at the American Museum of Natural History, 1992. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
Rotunda.
"Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch" (December 1991); "Northwest Coast Mask Carving"; "Opening Celebration" [undated]; "Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art"; "Members' Potlatch Feast"; "Kwakiutl Indian Dances, Masks, and Music" [undated as found in vertical file]
[Totem pole] [art reproduction] / Richard Hunt.
Date of resource: 1992

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 December 7


Export

Content negotiation supports the following types: text/html, application/xml, application/tei+xml, application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml, application/rdf+xml, application/json, text/turtle

Return to top

amnhc_5000437http://data.library.amnh.org/archives-authorities/org:Organizationosm