The “Giveaway” is one of the most special ceremonies as it involves having the strength to be totally unselfish and totally giving. At times, it is one of the most difficult things to do, but it always reaps the greatest rewards. As the expression goes, “It is better to give than to receive”.
I am speaking now more about the personal “Giveaway” experience, than I am of the type of “Giveaway” that follows a Traditional Feast or a particular function or gathering. That “Giveaway” is very gratifying as well as it is always wonderful to see how happy it makes people to receive a gift, especially when that gift is in appreciation for something they have done, some contribution they have made.
The “Giveaway” that is even more gratifying, however, is when the gift is something that is very hard to give, but the person gives it anyway, because they have been moved by the spirit to do so. To try to explain it in words is impossible, you have to experience it for yourself, both the giving and the receiving of a gift that is so special, the person giving and the person receiving that gift are in tears.
Our Mi’kmaq Ancestors promoted the concept of giving to the point where huge “Giveaways” were held at special times in a person’s life i.e. when someone was born, got married, passed away, etc. The belief is that when you give away you invite positive influences into your life. The harder it is to give something away, the more good things will come into the life of the giver. As soon as you feel like giving a particular item to someone, the feeling that you experience is that the item immediately belongs to them, now it’s simply for you to act on it. It doesn’t have to be an object either, it can be a giveaway of your time, your attention, your love. It can be by passing on what you have learned to others.
The Giveaway is a great way to teach our children not to be selfish or greedy and just want everything for themselves. Young people are encouraged to hold their own giveaways at important times in their life i.e. when a girl becomes a woman. The young person chooses a number of items that they have been given since they were born, items that are special to them, to give away.
Very often a Feast is followed by a “Giveaway”. We have given food and tobacco to the spirits to express our gratitude for what we have received, such as a return to good health, a name for a child, or a plentiful harvest. With the giveaway we thank the people who have come to be our supporters. Some people say that the things that we give away are things that we are giving to the other side, the spirits, even though a person here is receiving the gift. The person who is holding the feast and giveaway may make ribbon shirts, moccasins, dresses and small tobacco pouches for the people, or they may give blankets and other useful items for the home. They feel good after giving away the gifts that have been made and that they value.
At a traditional wedding, for example, the couple gives all kinds of gifts to those who attend. By doing so, they lay the foundation of sharing for their future together.
A good example of feasts and giveaways is when a young warrior has his first kill. The new hunter holds a feast and gives all of the animal’s meat to the community and earns respect for becoming a hunter. This is the rite of passage of a boy to a hunter.
On Aboriginal Day as part of our celebrations, the St. George’s Indian Band holds a traditional feast and “giveaway”. Tables are put together and covered with a red cloth that has the word Giveaway on the front. Many gifts are placed on this table to be given away, some traditional and some modern day items. Following the Feast and the Thank you to Mother Earth, everyone, beginning with the Elders are invited to come up and select a gift from the giveaway table. When we host a smaller gathering, a blanket is usually spread out on the floor or outside on the grass and items are placed on this blanket. Traditionally, the pecking order is oldest to the youngest out of respect for our elders. Our elders are also served first at the feast. Our young people witnessing this are taught to have respect for our elders.