The dance portion of the Ahtna potlatch functions as a mechanism for cultural transmission. The decline of the Ahtna, Athabaskan population has increased the responsibility of the potlatch to maintain indigenous customs. The potlatch is one of the few remaining traditional Ahtna rituals, as many have become extinct. The mortuary potlatch is the most commonly performed due to the high rates of suicide and alcoholism. Thus, the role of survival is inherent to the Ahtna potlatch as it is performed during times of crisis. The spatial structure and social roles of the dance portion mirror aspects of Ahtna society, defining it nonverbally. The act of dancing enables the spending of kinetic energy which heightens consciousness to allow a connection with spiritual icons from the remote past. This connection reinforces their historical, ancestral identity, which aids in the sustenance of contemporary Ahtna culture.


Kardulias, P. Nicholas


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

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© Copyright 1997 Alison E. Flint