Potlatch Spoon

Potlatch Spoon

Potlatch spoon made from sheep horn with goat horn handle riveted onto it with copper rivets

This serving spoon was crafted out of goat horn for a ceremonial potlatch. An elaborate ceremony usually given by a family member of the same moiety (clan) one year after a person's death in order to commemorate the deceased and to thank those from the other moiety that helped with the burial. In the olden days, a guest would have had to bring their own dishes and cutlery to the feast as it was far too time consuming to make and provide cutlery for the guests. Feasting is a big part of the potlatch, a guest was meant to eat as much as possible and it was the only time eating in excess was acceptable.

During the ceremonies, large ladles would be filled with delicious oil and passed to the most honoured guests to drink. The more common eating spoons were for regular fare and would have been used by holding the spoon handle to the side of the face while sipping from the side of the spoon. Food particles were picked out with the unused hand and placed in the mouth.

Large spoons often had a separate goat horn handle and bowl which were attached with copper rivets. The spoon was shaped by boiling or steaming the goat horn, this softened the material and made it easier to shape. The two pieces were hand riveted together with copper, a metal that was abundant in the area. Since copper was found in the riverbed, a spoon maker simply had to hammer the mineral into the desired rivet size. Horn material for the spoon was purposefully selected for aesthetic reasons. The contrast of the yellow sheep horn and the dark goat horn was considered a very desirable effect.


Kluane Museum of History, Burwash Landing

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