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Potlatch

Native American for “to give”, the commercial headquarters of the Skokomish Native American Reservation, was named for the Native American custom of exchanging gifts—blankets, canoes, baskets, guns, and other articles—at a community feast. Here stood the Potlatch House, center of activities during the festivals of former days.

Many of the Skokomish Native Americans have embraced the Shaker religion, which John Slocum, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, is credited with founding in the late 1880s. Services, conducted in the native tongue, begin with a solemn exhortative sermon by the leader. Then he calls for prayers; in turn each worshipper calls out his petition, and the assemblage echoes it in a deep-toned, thrilling chant. After the prayers a deacon, a bell in either hand, leads a ceremonial dance around the room to the accompaniment of rhythmic chanting and the jingle of bells. Each dancer in turn revolves before the altar and passes his hand through flaming candles for purification.

The potlatch house which stood there was reportedly three hundred feet long and one hundred fifty feet wide. Many famous potlatches were held there. In 1841, the Wilkes Expedition called the place Neclim Point, using the Native American name.