They have always lived like this,|
the sea in front of them, the mountains
at their backs. And from the sides
the others, rivals, often enemies, sometimes
friends, but never to be trusted. That
is the rule, to be disregarded at one's peril
or the peril of the village. Everyone knows
the rules, but some are more proficient
in observing them. Attack only when success
is assured, and the rest of the time
attend to your public image. Be ready,
be strong, for on this coast the weak
go down fast. There are no loners here;
if individuals or small groups are encountered
they are either killed outright, or robbed
and taken as slaves. Why not? Everyone
knows the rules and everyone is a member
of a family, a clan, a community
its collective power proceeding from
the leader's reputation and prestige,
the measure of which can be taken from
the number of skulls displayed along
his longhouse rafters, from the quantity
of fish drying in racks under his roof,
from the bladders of oil stored in corners
of his longhouse, from the number
of blankets hidden away
in decorated wooden blanket boxes,
from the size and condition of the longhouse
itself. Such a man becomes known
by his tools and his slaves, and the quality
of the work that he produces, and by
his women, their rank and beauty and wealth.
A leader is known for his totems and crests
and the songs that he owns and the dances
that his people can perform. His personal
value is linked to the histories
of the trading coppers in his possession,
to the number and size of the canoes
on the beach in front of the village,
to the number and fierceness of his warriors,
to his successes in battle, to the size
and splendor of his latest potlatch.
That is how he acquires standing
among his friends and enemies
along this coast. His fortune and strength
rise and fall with that of his people.
There is always the struggle, the rivalry,
the rules that are learned and followed,
the life that remains the same from one
generation to the next, a general stability,
at least until now.
John Webber: Yuquot Village, Nootka Sound, 1778.
Knowing what you do, doing what you know, living in a place with people, a people, who do what they know and know what they do. This is culture.
And what is it, exactly, that you are doing? What am I doing? Is that culture? Or is it Culture?
Stewart Webber, 2002:
Eagle / Killer Whale / Salmon.