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July 14-July 20, 2011
This Week We Feature the Golden Potlatch Festival
The 100th anniversary of the Golden Potlatch Festival will be celebrated this week starting on July 17. The Golden Potlatch Festival was pegged by historian Walt Crowley in the 13th article in The Seattle Times Turning Point series as Seattle's "first citywide summer festival."
On July 17, 1897, the steamship Portland arrived in Seattle from Alaska carrying more than a ton of gold from the banks of the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory. According to HistoryLink.org historian Greg Lange, "this marked the beginning of a massive rush to the goldfields of Canada, and a period of prosperity in King County that lasted more than a dozen years."
In 1909, Seattle held its first world's fair, called the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (A-Y-P), to celebrate the growth and riches brought to the Pacific Northwest by the Gold Rush -- and to promote the resources of Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory and the importance of trade with Pacific Rim countries. The A-Y-P put Seattle on the world map. City leaders realized the importance of continuing to advance Seattle's visibility, so two years later, the first Golden Potlatch Festival was held. The festival was visited by approximately 300,000 people, lasted for five days, and featured parades, concerts, exhibits, and demonstrations, including a reenactment of the arrival of the Portland with costumed miners carrying replica sacks of gold.
In a HistoryLink.org People's History essay, historian Dr. Lorraine McConaghy recounts how organizers of the Seattle Golden Potlatch Festival asserted they had "borrowed the term 'potlatch' from the 'quaint jargon of the Chinook,' meaning a 'carnival of sports, music, dancing and feasting, and the distributing of gifts by the hosts to all the guests.'" In fact, the Chinook Jargon was not an Indian language but a trade jargon used by European Americans as well as Native Americans. Many of the festival activities and promotions also fueled misconceptions concerning Northwest Indian peoples; as Dr. McConaghy concludes, the era was one in which a bustling, modernizing Seattle "sought to characterize its summer festival with misappropriated Indian motifs, seen as romantic, exotic, picturesque, and distinctly Northwest."
Teacher, students, and families can take advantage of the media coverage that will surround the anniversary of this local historical event to explore and review the HistoryLink.org essays, publications, and education resources that align with general themes of the Golden Potlatch Festival.
- Centennial: 1909-2009 examines the themes of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (A-Y-P) by guiding students to investigate and analyze different forms of primary sources. Activities encourage elementary and middle school students to explore how the A-Y-P reflected life in the Pacific Northwest 100 years ago and challenge them to find similarities and differences in life today.
- Coast Salish/Duwamish Curriculum explores the social life, values, and beliefs of the Coast Salish/Duwamish Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans.
- Seattle's Stake in the Klondike Gold Rush examines the importance of the Gold Rush in the economic development of Seattle and the Puget Sound region
- Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State, the first curriculum of its kind in the nation to cover tribal history, culture, and sovereignty, provides accurate and reliable information about the First People of Washington state so teachers can feel confident about what they are teaching,
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in downtown Seattle preserves the story of the stampede to the Yukon and of Seattle's role in this event. The park offers a glimpse into the stories of adventure and hardship of the Gold Rush.
Education Update Archives:
- The Klondike Gold Rush Historical Database is a comprehensive collection of related primary sources, including photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, contemporary Seattle business names and locations, vessel sailing dates, and passenger lists related to the 1897-1898 Gold Rush.
- Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington's First World's Fair, by Alan J. Stein, Paula Becker, and the HistoryLink Staff (2009, History Ink with UW Press).
Image: Bonny Ann Weber on rearing pony in Potlatch parade, Seattle. Courtesy Museum of History & Industry
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