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Potlatch as Pedagogy

Learning Through Ceremony

By Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson
Categories: Education, Professional Development, Inclusive Education, Social Science, Indigenous Studies, Multicultural Education
Imprint: Portage & Main Press

Paperback : 9781553797739, 96 pages, October 2018
Ebook (PDF) : 9781553797746, 96 pages, October 2018
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781553797753, 96 pages, October 2018

Based on the potlatch, the foundational ceremony of the Haida people, Potlatch as Pedagogy presents a model for learning that is holistic, relational, practical, and continuous.


In 1884, the Canadian government enacted a ban on the potlatch, the foundational ceremony of the Haida people. The tradition, which determined social structure, transmitted cultural knowledge, and redistributed wealth, was seen as a cultural impediment to the government’s aim of assimilation.

The tradition did not die, however; the knowledge of the ceremony was kept alive by the Elders through other events until the ban was lifted. In 1969, a potlatch was held. The occasion: the raising of a totem pole carved by Robert Davidson, the first the community had seen in close to 80 years. From then on, the community publicly reclaimed, from the Elders who remained to share it, the knowledge that has almost been lost.
Sara Florence Davidson, Robert’s daughter, would become an educator. Over the course of her own education, she came to see how the traditions of the Haida practiced by her father—holistic, built on relationships, practical, and continuous—could be integrated into contemporary educational practices. From this realization came the roots for this book.


This is not a book to be read quickly; it requires reflection to fully appreciate its content, purpose, and value. But time spent with Potlatch as Pedagogy will connect you with the Davidsons’ stories and enrich your understanding of Haida knowledge, culture, and historical struggles; and stimulate thought for considering how Indigenous knowledge, storytelling, and pedagogies could be included in educational practices.

Highly Recommended

Anita Miettunen, CM Review

Potlatch as Pedagogy is wonderfully wise, hopeful, heartful, eloquent, and loving! Every teacher candidate and teacher needs to read this book. The authors expertly evoke the history and culture of the Haida as they call forth the sadness as well as the hope and joy of generations of people who were misunderstood and mistreated. In this time of Truth and Reconciliation, we all need to attend to this book.

Dr. Carl Leggo, Professor, Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia