The Skokomish didn't have nukes, unlike the Russians on their reservation...

M A Jones mark at
Sun Sep 19 11:48:24 MDT 1999

[Lou, this is recycling but in a just cause. I posted this to Johnson's
Russia List a while back. It consists of an exchange between me and a prize
asshole called Edwin G Dolan who fronts the American Institute of Business
and Economics MBA program in Moscow (not-for-profit, of course).

The meat came from Journal of Political Ecology
Vol.5 1998 No 1, article by J. Stephen Lansing, Philip S. Lansing and Juliet
S. Erazo.

Mark Jones]


Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999=20
From: "Edwin G. Dolan" <dolan at>=20
Subject: Moral Culture and Russian Prosperity

Moral Culture and Prosperity in Russia

   Sarah Busse (JRL 3041) makes an excellent case for the importance of  a
particular moral order as a prerequisite for capitalism, a theme to which
others, including of Austin Forsyth (JRL 3024) and Philip Waring (JRL 3023),
have also made helpful recent contributions. All of them argue that certain
traits of Russian culture have made it especially difficult for an orderly
and prosperous market economy to take root here.
   In this area, as elsewhere, it is helpful to have some structural model=
work from, so that the discussions does not become a mere laundry list of
culture and moral values that are attributed to one or another nationality.
One of the most thought-provoking structural models of moral culture that I
have run across is that set out in Jane Jacob's book "Systems of Survival."
Perhaps some members of this list might find some of her ideas useful.
   A good way to get the flavor of Jacobs's argument and its relevance for
Russia is to start with a story she relates midway through her book about a
Central African tribe known as the Iks. Her account, although not her
conclusions, relies, in turn, on Colin Turnbull's The Mountain People.
   The Iks were a tribe of hunter-gatherers in the hinterlands of Kenya,=
in the 1950s, were displaced when the government established a large game
preserve. With the advice of Western anthropologists, the government decided
to turn the Iks into subsistence farmers. They were given tools, supplies of
seeds, and instruction in farming methods.
   The result was a disaster. The cast of mind that had served the Iks as
hunter-gatherers did not transfer to farming. Instead of working
industriously in good times to save up for lean times to come, as farmers
need to do, they worked only as hard as they needed to get each day's food,
as hunters do. Instead of saving seed for the next planting, as farmers do,
they ate it, as gatherers of wild foods do. Individuals who ran short of
food raided their neighbors' granaries. This reinforced the notion that it
was not worth storing anything.
   When starvation hit, the Iks, who had been gentle and fun-loving as
hunters, became savagely brutal. Able-bodied young men monopolized relief
food intended for women and children. When there was a lucky year of good
rains, they exhibited greed and selfishness on a stunning scale. The weak
were cold-bloodedly robbed. Young men built a permanent racket of coaxing
relief food and monopolizing it for themselves. One elder who was a master
of deception fomented cattle raids among neighboring Masai herdsmen, and
then took payoffs from all of them for serving as an informer and double
agent. Even children became brutal toward one another. Family life broke
down and population plummeted. In short, the Iks became subject to a number
of the ills that characterize today's Russia.
   Jacobs's analysis of the Ik debacle is that the government and its
advisers, in trying to convert the Iks to farming, gave them the needed
"artifacts" and "mentifacts," but not the needed "ethifacts." That is, it
gave them tools and instruction but failed to notice that they lacked a
moral code suitable to life as subsistence farmers.
   Previously, the Iks, as hunters, had practiced a moral code that Jacobs
calls the "guardian syndrome." This code gets its name from the predominant
values of groups like police, soldiers, and government bureaucrats, but it
also is mimicked by groups that rely for their livelihood on the use of
force outside the framework of law, not only primitive hunters, but also
organized crime groups and freebooting warlords like those found today in
Somalia or Chechnya. The guardian syndrome, in both its benign and malignant
manifestations, emphasizes the following virtues:

Shun trading
Exert prowess
Be obedient and disciplined
Adhere to tradition
Respect hierarchy
Be loyal
Take vengance
Deceive for the sake of the task at hand
Make rich use of leisure
Be ostentatious
Dispense largesse
Be exclusive=20
Show fortitute
Be fatalistic
Treasure honor

   These virtues, which served the Iks well as hunters, became vices when=
attempt was made to convert them to farmers. According to Jacobs, peaceful
subsistence farming (as opposed to serfdom or slavery) requires a different
moral code, which she calls the "commercial syndrome." Its elements are:

Shun force
Come to voluntary agreements
Be honest
Collaborate easily with strangers and foreigners
Respect contracts
Use initiative and enterprise
Be open to inventiveness and novelty
Be efficient
Promote comfort and convenience
Practice dissent for the sake of the task at hand
Invest for productive purposes
Be industrious
Be thrifty
Be optimistic

   The Ik episode shows what can happen when a people is suddenly thrown=
a situation where its old moral syndrome is no longer appropriate. Leisure,
appropriate after a good hunt, failed to give way to the thrift and industry
needed to plant a crop in preparation for a distant winter. Deception, a
great virtue when practiced by hunters to track wild game, was instead put
to work against neighboring farmers and herdsmen. Young men used force and
prowess to gain a livelihood at the expense of their fellows, instead of
entering into mutually beneficial cooperation and contracts, and so on.
Jacobs, who finished Systems of Survival in 1992, had little to say about
Russian reforms, but clearly, the guardian mentality has deep roots in
Russian history. It was reinforced by Communism, which suppressed any open
manifestation of commercial morality. After 1991, the artifacts and
mentifacts of a new, capitalist way of life were imported into Russia with
little thought for their consistency with prevailing ethifacts. The clash
between the guardian mentality and the requirements of a market economy
appears to have contributed to the slow pace, and in some cases outright
failure, of market development in several specific ways.
   One problem is that privatized or newly established firms in Russia were
often headed by former guardians, either "Red Directors" in the case of much
of heavy industry, or ex-Komsomol whiz-kids of the Kiriyenko variety in the
case of the financial sector. Has this generation of Russian management made
it a principle to shun force in business dealings? Has it consistently shown
a preference for voluntary agreements? Is it conspicuously honest? Do Red
Directors collaborate easily with foreigners? Are they enthusiastic about
competition? Do they respect contracts? Are they open to inventiveness and
novelty? Are they efficient? Do they channel their wealth into investments
for productive purposes? No doubt some of them do some of the time, but by
and large, these are not the traits that Western managers, working in
Russia, see as especially prominent among their Russian counterparts.
   Moreover, while we see a lack of many of the commercial virtues in=
Russian business culture, we also see many holdovers from the guardian
syndrome, both among New Russians and Red Directors. The more obvious ones
include readiness to take vengance and practice deceit, to be ostentatious
and practice largesse, and to be exclusive. There are some less obvious ones
as well. For example, Russian firms tend to be more hierarchical, as often
noted by graduates of our institute who have moved between Russian and
Western employers. They report that it is harder to see the boss in a
Russian firm and that mid-level managers have less independence. As for the
tendency to shun trading, it is interesting that Ikes and Gaddy, in their
comments on the "virtual economy," emphasize the preference of Red
Directors, whenever possible, to shield their firms from the influence of
the market rather than to seize market opportunities. At least in these
authors' view, barter, in the Russian style, is not quite commerce.
   Next, I'd like to turn to another of Jacobs's points: that the guardian
syndrome is characteristic not only of legitimate institutions like police
forces and bureaucracies, but also of criminal gangs. At one point she
expands at length on importance of prowess, vengance, loyalty, largesse,
etc. to the Italian mafia. In fact, as she mentions in a footnote, she was
originally inclined to refer to this moral cast of mind as the "raider"
syndrome rather than the guardian syndrome, before finally opting for
Plato's less pejorative term.
   It is hardly necessary to dwell on the fact that organized crime has=
fertile soil in post-Soviet Russia. Could the reason be, at least in part,
that the moral syndrome suitable to a successful criminal gang differs
little from the moral orientation of the CPSU, and especially its security
organs, veterans of which are said to play prominent roles in Russian
organized crime? If so, we might best characterize post-Soviet organized
crime as the privatization of guardian functions previously monopolized by
the Party.
   Still another of Jacobs's ideas can be brought to bear on the notion that
Russia would be better off if privatization had proceeded less rapidly, or
if the state had maintained a stronger role in developing market
institutions. (See, for example, Jerry Hough in JRL 3025). According to
Jacobs, the state is not very good at carrying out economic functions
because it lacks the necessary cast of mind. One example is the problems all
Western countries encounter in managing their defense industries. Whether
state owned, as in Europe, or privately owned, as in the United States, this
sector never achieves standards of efficiency and effectiveness seen
elsewhere in a market economy, at least in part because it is too strongly
under the influence of guardian values. A related problem with state
management of the economy is the guardian proclivity to practice largesse,
which in one country after another has meant generous subsidies to dying
shipyards, coal mines, or steel mills at the expense of the health of the
economy as a whole. Taking these points into account, it is hard to be
confident that slower privatization in Russia would have led to faster
market development. It very well might just have led to a different set of
   I would not want to imply that Jacobs's model of moral culture holds all
the answers for Russia, but what I find especially valuable in it is not
just the emphasis on specific cultural traits but also on the way the traits
interrelate with one another to form logically coherent syndromes. I think
this approach remains valid even when we turn to certain characteristics of
Russian culture that Jacobs does not mention.
   In particular, I have in mind the phenomenon of "black envy" that is so
strong in Russia. Black envy is the impulse to destroy the object of envy,
as opposed to white envy, the desire to attain that object. If your neighbor
buys a new car, white envy makes you buy one too. Black envy, on the other
hand, makes you slash your neighbor's tires.
   Black envy is closely related to _zloradstvo_, another psychological
phenomenon that is strong in Russia. Zloradstvo is the feeling of joy at the
sight of another's suffering. Although this feeling is by not unknown to
people from English-speaking countries, it is sufficiently less salient that
the English language has no specific word for it, usually borrowing the
German _Schadenfreude_ when the necessity arises.
   Although Jacobs never mentions them, it seems logical to place black envy
and zloradstvo within the guardian moral syndrome. Black envy is, after all,
akin to vengeance, although the vengeance in this case is not against a
material injury, but rather against the psychological injury arising from
the mere sight of another's success. Guardian leaders sometimes select a
particular group of outsiders as an officially sanctioned target for
feelings of black envy, something which may promote solidarity and loyalty
within the group. It is also noteworthy that many political movements of the
guardian persusion include an element of egalitarianism in their official
ideology. (Even the Nazis began as "National Socialists.") This can be
viewed as a manifestation of largesse, one of Jacobs's guardian virtues, but
it can also be viewed as an attempt to position the state as the official
channel for black envy, since egalitarianism necessarily means not just
distributing largesse to the weak but also cutting the more energetic and
successful down to size. The Bolsheviks' unleashing of the poorest peasants
against the kulaks is an especially spectacular example of state-sanctioned
black envy.
   White envy, on the other hand, seems more closely aligned with the
commercial moral syndrome. It would be hard to term even white envy an
actual virtue. Yet it is hard to deny that the desire to "keep up with the
Joneses" is a powerful driving force in modern, consumer-oriented=
   If we look for an opposite of zloradstvo, compassion would seem the=
candidate. Compassion with another's suffering leads to the impulse to help
the unfortunate one. Within the guardian syndrome, the instrument of aid is
largesse, administered either by the state, or, in the fashion of Robin
Hood, by one who robs the rich to give to the poor. On the other hand, we
are likely to find ideologists of the commercial syndrome advocating not
largesse, but rather, the creation of opportunity as the correct response to
compassion. "Give a man a fish, and he eats for one day; give him a net and
he eats every day." What adage could resonate more strongly with commercial
   I would like to make two qualifying remark in closing. The first is in
response to an economist colleague, who, on reading an earlier version of
this comment, expressed disappointment that I was giving "soft" cultural
explanations of Russian problems priority over rigorous economic analysis
based on self-interest. I do not think that emphasis on the cultural basis
of capitalism stands in conflict with the principle that much or most of
economic behavior is motivated by self-interest. Take the virtue of honesty.
In a culture where commercial values are widely shared, traders are driven
by self-interest to be honest, or, in economic jargon, "to invest in honesty
as an element of reputational capital." On the other hand, in a society
where one does not expect honesty to be reciprocated, being honest oneself
can be a losing business strategy.
   This difference exists in reality, and not just as a pious platitude in=
minds of academics. For example, I have worked for many years in textbook
publishing in both the United States and Russia. US textbook publishing is
big business and is full of tough execs who know how to play hardball, but
there, I never had a publisher openly cheat me on royalty accounting, or
offer to pay cash and split the tax savings, or offer a better royalty rate
if I would cheat another publisher on copyright permissions, or publish a
pirate edition of any of my books. They would be fools to do so because no
reputable author would publish with them again. But all of these things have
happened to me in Russia, because Russian publishers seem to view every deal
as a one-shot affair, not as the first step in building a long-term business
   Second, I would like to respond to a comment made several weeks ago on=
list by Jim Vail (JRL 3019), who cautioned that Americans should be careful
when bragging about the virtues of their culture, citing down-and-out
African Americans on the South Side of Chicago as a case in point. The
validity of the commercial and guardian moral syndromes as important
determinants of social outcomes does not require us to ignore the fact that
every society is composed of some adherents to one and some adherents to the
other. It would be absurd, for example, to say that there are no
representatives of the commercial cast of mind in Russia. If so, how could I
explain the woman who stands on the street outside our apartment building
for long hours in every kind of weather to sell carrots and onions, giving
honest weight and good quality at a modest markup over cost? Similarly, the
guardian mentality is alive and well in the United States, not only in the
form of its police and army, but also in the form of South-side Chicago
street gangs, cults, violently fanatical antiabortionsts, and the like.
   The point is not that one of these syndromes is inherently good and the
other bad. What makes the difference between a functional society and a
dysfunctional one is the right balance between the two, and above all, some
way of keeping each moral syndrome confined to its proper sphere. In the
United States, we can point to the festering failure of the Indian
reservation system as a case in which guardianism inappropriately applied
has all but deprived an entire ethnic group of the benefits of capitalist
development. On the other hand, in Russia we might view corruption in police
forces, especially the mixing of law enforcement with the marketing of
protection services, as a dysfunctional injection of commercial values into
an area from which they should be rigidly excluded.

Edwin G. Dolan
American Institute of Business and Economics
An independent, not-for-profit MBA program in Moscow
dolan at

[reply from Mark Jones]

Dear David Johnson:
The absurdities of Busse did not seem worthy of comment, butnow that
anthropology has raised its ugly head, I hope you'll allow me to make a
comparison between the fate of Russia and the fate of other primitive
Edwin G. Dolan, JRL3046, seems to think that the Soviet Union was a nomadic
society of hunter-gatherers. It was more than that, actually, and before we
try to persuade the Russians themselves that it was, we shall have  to ply
them with a lot more cheap booze and 'aid'. People can still remember. As
those who ever lived there  know, yes there was corruption on a large scale
in the USSR but there were also normative standards of  honesty, collective
action, solidarity and professionalism; and pace Gaddy  Ickes, the country
was productive  enough to be able to defend itself and to provide its
citizens with a higher standard of life than capitalism can.
Of course, if you steal people's land and livelihoods from them, as happened
in the case of the Ik and of First  Nations everywhere, most recently in the
case of the Ogoni in West Nigeria, whose land was turned into a  reeking
swamp of oil pollution and gas flaring by Shell Oil (whose royalties
financed the government which then  executed Ogoni playwright Ken Saro
Wiwa), and you decant them into some reservation and give them a few
shovels to get by, then you can expect them to turn nasty. If, as in the
case of Russia, you systematically promote the activites of notorious
thieves and robbers, making a new politico-financial elite of the most
criminalised, anti-social groupings, which is what the West did, then you
can get virulent anti-Americanism as one possible response, but you can also
spread the idea that in Western eyes, theft, cynicism, uncontrolled greed,
plunder and a devil-take-the-hindmost attitude to one's fellow citizens, are
all commendable, jolly good things which are normative western values. You
cannot be surprised if your quislings and placemen then turn into natives
before your very eyes and start to behave in the same way, even biting the
hand that feeds them, and do it without displaying any of the conventional
hypocrisy which masks such behaviour and  conceals the true selfishness
behind the superficial good-neighbourliness of westerners.
Shocked by the appalling lack of gratitude and general bad manners of your
victims, the next logical thing to do is to call in the anthropologists, a
special breed of men and women invented in Victorian England for the sake of
salving bad consciences and explaining away in pseudo-scientific terms the
anti-social behaviour of colonial peoples traumatised by our own plundering,
genocidal behaviour. If you really want to see the kind of behaviour Dolan
describes in its most florid expression, you have to read not anthropology
but the works of Primo Levi, the Auschwitz victim who survived until 1987
before committing suicide as the consequence of his unassuagable guilt and
endless waking nightmare. In works such as 'The Truce' (1963) and 'The
Drowned and the Saved' (1986) he shows how physical torture and annihilation
inevitably produce spiritual degradation and the complicity of the victim in
the process. This in particular is what destroysthe sense of worth and
self-esteem of survivors; it is what drove Levi to kill himself and what
drives people on reservations to drink, demoralisation and early death. Jane
Jacobs would have had a field day  as an SS anthropologist observing the odd
behaviour of the Jews in the camps and rationalising it for a grateful
posterity. It's their Jewishness, you see. The Jews are well known for being
cunning, conniving, deceitful, anti-social, thieving, beggar-my-neighbour
I can give you an example closer to home of what happens when you steal
people's birthright. I hope you will allow me to do it in sufficient detail
to show theabsurdity of Jane Jacob's findings about 'Guardian culture' which
Dolan hasuncritically regurgitated.
The  Skokomish Indians lived in the Olympic mountains in western Washington
state.Unfortunately for them a utility company decided to build dams and
hydropower plants on the Skokomish River: after all, who really needed the
kind of value-subtracting actvities like year-round salmon-fishing and
celebrating nature which the Skokomish were into?  Just like at the kind of
futile existence these people had before they got the benefits of modernity:
the Skokomish regarded the valley of the North Fork as thehome of their
ancestors, an idea which recently received archaeological support with
thediscovery of prehistoric village sites that were inundated by the
flooding of Lake Cushmancaused by the construction of the first power dam.
The age of these sites was estimated at between 5000 to 8000 years old based
on the style of artifacts found and their similarity to other presumed
"Olcott" sites in the Pacific. In the nineteenth century the valleywas also
a major village site. The valley was the center for many important resources
forthe Skokomish, including flocks of waterfowl, large herds of elk that
wintered in thevalley, and many kinds of useful plants including ironwood,
yew, bear grass, berries andcedar. A detailed picture of the importance of
these resources for the Skokomish isprovided by the work of William
Elmendorf. Elmendorf was an anthropologist whoconducted fieldwork among the
Skokomish for nearly twenty years, and published acomprehensive ethnographic
monograph on The Structure of Twana Culture in 1960.Many of Elmendorf's
informants spoke to him about their activities in the valley beforethe dams
were built: hunting for deer, elk, bear, wolf and marmots in the
mountains,spearing ducks and geese from canoes in the river delta, and
fishing for salmon andsteelhead at the falls and in the river. The lake,
waterfalls and mountain slopes were alsoimportant as sites for guardian spir
it questing.
The tidal estuary at the mouth of the river on Hood Canal was also a major
naturalresource for the Skokomish. The abundant shellfish present at the
estuary wereparticularly valuable because they were stationary and available
year round. Along withshellfish collection, other important activities
included spearing and trolling for salmonand bottom fish, hunting for
wildfowl with spears and nets, and harvesting of sweetgrass,cattail and
other plant materials for baskets and containers. The estuary was also
animportant sacred site for the Twana Secret Society.
The third major riverine resource for the Skokomish was of course the river
itself, as ahabitat for anandromous fish. The Skokomish developed an
extensive knowledge of thehabits and what we would now term the ecology of
all five species of salmon andsteelhead, which arrive at the river in a
more-or-less orderly sequence of "salmon runs"extending virtually the
year-round. At the height of the salmon runs, vast quantities offish were
available. Maximizing the potential of this resource required a combination
oftechnological and social innovations. If the salmon were to do more than
provide for thesubsistence needs of individual households, several problems
needed to be solved: how tocatch many fish in a short time, how to store the
surplus that could not be consumedimmediately, and how to convert that
perishable surplus into wealth. The same problemsexist for commercial
fishermen today, who solve them by using large boats equipped
withmachine-operated gill nets, and selling the fish in the marketplace.
The Skokomish developed a wide variety of fishing techiques, including
trolling,spearing, gaffing, trapping, set-lining and gill-netting. Some
techniques were suited forfishing by individuals or small groups. The most
effective method for taking salmon,however, was the construction of weirs
spanning the river, which were set up by entirevillage communities during
the salmon runs and carefully managed so that a surplus offish could be
caught without fatally interrupting the spawning cycle.
These weirs made it possible to catch far more fish than the communitycould
consume. Most of the fish were preserved by smoking or drying. Fish oil and
seal fatwere stored in seal or porpoise bladders, while dried fish was
stored in baskets made fromcedar bark and roots and grasses from the river
valley and estuary.
Thus the ability of the Indians to obtain a regular surplus of salmon
depended on twotypes of technology: communal weirs and various systems used
to catch the fish, andsmoke-houses and containers used to preserve them.
Effective use of this technologyrequired the participation of large social
units, which Elmendorf calls villages or "winter-house groups":Fishing weirs
in the Skokomish river were the communal property of the members ofa
winter-house group who seasonally erected them. However, although all
malemembers of a village were responsible for the construction and
maintenance of aweir, sections of the weir platform and the suspended dip
nets used there wereindividually owned...A large portion of any catch was
distributed gratis to fellowvillagers in any case.
Without these communal weirs and an effective technology for storage
andpreservation, fishing would have remained a subsistence technology
carried on byhouseholds, and only a fraction of the actual Twana population
could have been supportedby this resource. The high population densities,
stratified social structure and complexceremonial life which characterize
traditional Twana culture are the products of aneconomic adaptation based on
the collective management of riverine resources by the"villages" or "winter
house groups". What were these groups?
The Twana language has no term for the nuclear family or household unit.
Instead,the major social unit recognized by the Twana was the group of
kinsmen and slaves whooccupied the large winter joint-family houses. These
groups or "villages" were calledscel.a in the Twana language. According to
Elmendorf, scel.a "referred to an entirebilaterally reckoned line or
lineage, a series of ancestors and descendants". Twana socialorganization
was thus technically a form of kinship organization which
anthropologistscall a deme: a clan-like group of persons who reside together
and are related to oneanother by marriage or by common descent through
either of their parents. Twana demesfunctioned as corporate groups, whose
joint estate included weir sites on the river andweirs themselves, as well
as the large wooden building that served as their joint residence.Demes were
socially stratified into three classes: upper class, commoners, and
"slaves".Characteristically, even though "slaves" were descended from
different kin groups, allresidents of a winter village were regarded as
members of the deme. The largest Twanademes in existence at the time of the
treaty negotiations were located at the weir-sitesalong the Skokomish river.
The wealth items acquired through the trading network circulated in
intra-and inter-communityexchanges which were the principal focus of social
and ceremonial life amongthe Skokomish, as well as other Coastal Salish
tribes. Elmendorf emphasizes that a surplusof fish was sought not as a
source of food, but because of its role in a complex system ofritualized
exchanges that were the foundation of the social and spiritual life of
Winter feasting and heightened social activity were not merely matters of
utilizingleisure made possible by the existence of preserved-food stores. In
the Twana viewthese winter activities, particularly spirit dancing and its
accompanying fooddistribution, were the necessities of life for which
abundant food stores had to be putaside. Informants repeatedly expressed
this view. "The real reason", said FrankAllen, "why people worked so hard in
the summer and put aside all that food-morethan they needed-was to feed
their c'sa'lt (guardian spirits), when they came tothem in winter."
In Twana society, individuals gained prestige and social status not by
hoarding up theirsurpluses, but rather by generously giving goods away, in a
manner that signified theincorporation of other people. According to the
Twana concept of the relationship ofhumanity to the natural world, the
continuation of human life required humans to killsentient beings whom they
considered to be, beneath their animal skins or guises, personslike
themselves. For the Salmon People, the Elk People and the other animal
species wereregarded as sharing a common origin with humanity. As the
anthropologist MarshallSahlins observes:Indeed the lives of people and game
or fish are interdependent; for if the animalswillingly give themselves to
the Indians, it is because the Indians know how to assurethe rebirth of
their prey through the ritual aspects they accord the remains-a cyclethat
passes through a human phase when the animal is consumed as food.
Such beliefs ensured that the social function of the winter villages
extended beyond theannual creation of the communal salmon weirs. Each
community also took responsibility for enforcing rules against the pollution
of the river, since this could interfere with theannual journeys of the
Salmon People. It is reported that even when communities werefeuding, the
weirs were regularly opened to allow the fish to continue their
journeyupstream. In the autumn, at the height of the salmon run, villages
held intercommunitypotlatch feasts (siwad). Local surpluses of food were
traded through an extensiveexchange network to acquire items of wealth that
could serve as gifts, whose bestowal wasthe main business of such feasts.
The value of these wealth items was ranked, usingdouble-fathom strands of
dentalium shells as the units of value. In the siwad feasts,members of the
upper class presented wealth items to important people from
othercommunities, transforming the wealth generated by their mastery of the
salmon fisheryinto personal status. Foodstuffs such as salmon were never
treated as wealth for thepurpose of these ceremonial gifts, although a
lavish outlay of food was expected at thetermination of a feast.
For the sponsors of the siwad feasts, the ability to bestow rich gifts was
proof of thepotency of the powers they had acquired from their animal
guardian-spirits. These powerswere sought by individuals in vision quests in
the mountains. Guardian spirits (also called"wealth-power spirits") gave
power-songs to their chosen human representatives, andthese songs were sung
by the sponsors at the culmination of the siwad feasts. One becamea member
of the upper class by using the "wealth-powers" acquired from one's
guardianspirits to accumulate wealth, and ultimately by transforming this
wealth into prestige bygiving it away in competitive feasting. While such
feasts served to validate the upper-classstatus of the feast giver, they
also helped to maintain social bonds between villagesthroughout Twana
territory. The ties created by the feast cycles were further strengthenedby
marriages between upper-class individuals belonging to different demes.
According toElmendorf's informants, members of neighboring tribes were also
frequently included inthe cycles of feasts and marriage alliances. The
social bonds thus created had importantpractical consequences. During the
spring and summer, members of Twana demes wereable to move freely over the
entire Twana territory. Warfare existed in the Twana world,but only in the
form of raids on their villages by distant tribes. Twana demes did not
makewar on one another, or on the neighboring tribes who participated in the
feast cycles.Elmendorf noted that the Twana practiced only defensive
warfare, and "in all accounts theraiding enemy was defeated by defensive
The feast cycles provided manifold practical benefits. But they also had
symbolic or religious significance. Major rituals served to define Twana
concepts of society in the context of the collective rites necessary to
ensure the continuity of the world. For example, upper-class leaders of
demes annually organized the "First Salmon" rituals, in which the bones of
the first salmon caught were ceremoniously sent downriverto ensure the
return of the souls of theSalmon People to their villages across the western
ocean. Similarly, the entirecommunity bore the responsibility to enforce
rules against polluting the river which mightharm the Salmon People in their
journey upstream. Twana demes were at once social,economic and ritual units,
whose prosperity depended on their fruitful connection to thelife-giving
powers of the natural world. These powers were conceived as animal
guardian-spirits, who were actually human beings in their own countries. In
Twana myths, theanimals tell the people to treat them well and to remember
that they are "just like people".Elemendorf's informants spoke of "the time
when we were animals", before the worldcapsized, noting that "if the people
aren't good, the animals know that there will beanother [transformation or
"capsize" of the world]".
 Sociologically, the major use of the surpluses of salmon sought bythe demes
was to acquire the wealth items which fueled the cycles of gift-giving
andcompetitive exchange by which social alliances were extended across the
entire Twanaterritory.
After the dams were built, the Skokomish river silted up and soon became a
rancid polluted  trickle. What happened to the Skokomish? Yes, you guessed
it: they ended up a bunch of drunks fighting and stealing on a reservation.
Then they pretty much died out. Now their8,000 year old culture is just
history and souvenir shops.
I hope the Russians have better luck than the Skokomish, but I'm not an
optimist any more. Not when I see how far down the road we have already gone
in rationalising the destruction of Russian culture and the Russian nation.

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