This internationally acclaimed film has been digitally restored through a special project of the Audio-Visual Heritage Association of BC, made possible by funding through the Heritage Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage with the Assistance of the Audio-visual Preservation Trust of Canada.
Over the centuries, the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations of the Northwest Coast developed a sophisticated culture based on the ceremonial giving away of surplus wealth. This was the basis of an indigenous social and economic ecology. With the arrival of European settlers intent on the accumulation of property, traditional Native society came under attack. For years, the Canadian government outlawed the potlatch, crushing a unique culture and seizing its artifacts to be studied and "protected."
Directed by Dennis Wheeler and produced by Tom Shandel, this film was created in collaboration with the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations of Alert Bay, British Columbia who retained editorial control. It is based upon historical research compiled by the U'mista Cultural Society of Alert Bay and features important testimony from Kwakwaka'wakw elders. The film is narrated by Gloria Cranmer Webster. Her father Dan Cranmer came into conflict with the Canadian government when he held a potlatch in 1921 and people were arrested. The Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations continue to hold the potlatch today, in the tradition of their ancestors.