The longest running tradition in the Pacific Northwest is that of people coming together to share their resources at a potlatch. The abundance of the region called us to share generously. Everyone had enough and everyone had something to share. The potlatch grew out of this soil from the initial immigrants by ice.
The Pacific Northwest is an abundant region and we should generously share. This is a place where everyone can be assured of enough. We live in a land of plenty.
Subsequent immigrants by wagon crossed the Rockies and Psalm 65.11 echoed, “Your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.” Legend says that the salmon flows in the Pacific Northwest were “so thick you could walk across the rivers on their backs.” This is certainly a geography where the paths, and rivers, “drip with fatness.”
I was recently part of a potlatch. This was a potlatch of the mind, not the stomach. Leaders in the work of global reconciliation, aid and relief met for a day to share from our abundance. We had our Starbucks, but beyond that we came to share in this off-the-record, energizing conversation summarized as an “innovation lab.”
During this time, I lead the group in a morning discussion on the Unique Idiosyncrasies of the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few of the distinctives that filled the white board…
- Tolerant – Live and Let Live
- Love for animals
- Non-Conformity is cool
- Two worlds in one.
- Diversity is highly valued
- Seattle Freeze
The last one stings. This is not who we truly are as a region. The Seattle Freeze, where people are very kind but really don’t allow you into their life, has developed recently. Almost everyone in Washington comes from someplace else. The population has exploded and 80% of the people live along a very narrow passageway called I-5. Most of us have landed in this small space as are a part of a series of immigrations:
- 2010s: Tech/Job/Innovation Migration
- 1990s: California Real Estate Migration
- 1960s: Lutheran Migration (Montana, Dakotas, Minnesota)
With each of these migrations we have become more removed from the potlatch nature of this place. We don’t know each other. Our families are elsewhere. We don’t have roots. We aren’t truly tied to the place. We’re nice. We are welcoming. We freeze. “Lets grab coffee sometime.”
This is partially a part of our self-reliant nature. Shoot, we provide power, planes, shopping, software, timber and tech for much of the world. Even our famous Top Pot Donuts are “hand-forged.” We aren’t going to leave them up to just bounce around in some oil.
Part two of this blog post will be posted on Monday, April 3, 2017. Look for “Potlatch Part II.”