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The Giveaway Ceremony

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1975      v05 n15 p14  
The Giveaway Ceremony is one of many old Indian customs still practiced today. It is performed at religous and social gatherings such as the pow-wow (grassdance) and the raindance. Visitors, who come from near or far are honored at this time.

On the last day of an event, the announcer invites all visitors to gather, either under the big top or around the lodge. The ceremony begins with a dance by those people who will be giving gifts away. Anybody can take part in the Giveaway though it is usually members of the pow-wow committee and the Band Council who do so. After the dance is finished, the people stand in the dancing area with the gifts they will be giving away. The announcer then calls upon those visitors that each donor has picked to give a gift to.

All forms of goods are given away, such as blankets and linen cloth, guns, leather goods, suit-cases, money, even horses and teepees.

The Giveaway is performed for several reasons.

Indian people do not judge each other by how much money they make or by the amount of things they own, but rather by how much a person gives away. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and sincerity by a person towards his fellow man is shown when prized possessions are given away freely. Unlike the potlatch, receivers of gifts are not expected to give something of greater value in return.

The giving away of gifts shows the appreciation people have towards visitors for having travelled so far to take part in their festivities. It is hoped that those receiving gifts will always remember them in their prayers.

A Giveaway may also be held in memory of loved ones who have died. It also asks visitors to remember in their prayers.

Each year many new dancers (usually children) appear on the pow-wow trail. The parents invite others to share in their joy by offering gifts to remember this special occasion.

McCallum cartoon