T.P., the only native left "whose broad brow showed that as an infant", in accordance with tribal custom, "it had been tightly bound with cedar bands", says, "we are losing our sons...our young no longer understand the meaning of the totems". The men are concerned because their young people have lost touch with their culture.
For centuries, the members of the Kwakiutl tribe, isolated in the rmote Pacific Northwest, lived in a pristine state. They were a simple but rich society bounded by custom and community, and they took their livelihood from the land, existing in harmony with nature - hunting "for food, not for fun", and with each other. With the gradual encroachment of modern white civilization, that began to change. Now, only one child, in the tribe, Keetah, has "no English proper name", and there is poverty and depravity in the village, as exemplified by Sam, who lives in "the poorest house and want(s) only two things in life, liquor and sex" (Chapter 3).