In 1852, before they had received any visits from U.S. officials, the Hopi sent a diplomatic gift, composed of prayer-sticks, to President Millard Fillmore in Washington, dc. This article addresses both the cultural content and the social intent of this “gift,” focusing on historical circumstances and ethnographic import. In seeking to transact with the president, the Hopi intent discloses a formal nexus among diplomacy,barter, and religious offerings. Anthropology's tendency to separate social action into discrete fields—economics, politics, and religion—obscures a congruence that this transaction illuminates. The“spirit of the barter” suggests a new resonance for Marcel Mauss's important observations on gift-exchange.

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