How to become a pow wow dancer

Powwow general rules for first timers

Powwow general rules for first timers

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It should be noted that every POWWOW is different so the first rule is the most important. The key is respect, and many first timers don't have access to the life-long teachings that we take for granted. Here is the Charley's 16 rules, hope you enjoy.

The following are general rules I give to follow when going to a POWWOW.

1) Listen to the Master of Ceremonies.

2) Do not sit within the arena. The chairs inside the arena are reserved for the dancers. Use the outside circle or bleachers if provided.

3) If you want to take pictures, check with the POWWOW host first, then check with the person you are taking pictures of and ASK THEIR PERMISSION. Under no circumstances may you enter the arena to take photos. Put your camera down for all memorial dances.

4) All tape recording must be done with the permission of the Master of Ceremonies and the Lead (or Head) Singer of EACH drum. When a new drum starts, do not enter the arena to get to the other drum. Don't run. Miss the song and wait for the next one to take your time getting to the drum. Nothing is more rude than Recorder-runners ganging around a drum. Many Powwow disallow this anyway (fine by me!).

5) If you are not wearing traditional Regalia, you may dance only on social songs (like Two-Step, Blanket Dance, Honoring Songs, Circle, etc..) Sometimes a blanket dance is held to gather money. You may enter the circle to donate.

6) Only those with the permission of the Lead Singer may sit at a drum. (And it's a good idea to know the songs because it's often a habit to ask the stranger to lead one.)

7) Stand and men must remove their hat (unless traditional head gear) during the Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Invocation, Memorial, Veterans Songs, and the Closing Song.

8) During the Gourd Dancing, only Gourd Dancers and Gourd Dance Societies are to enter the Dance arena. Owning a gourd rattle does not make one a Gourd Dancer. Check with the local Societies.

9) Please do not permit your children to enter the dance circle unless they are dancing.

10) Do not touch anyones dance Regalia without their permission. These clothes are not costumes and yes we use modern things like safety pins and such because we are a living culture, our Regalia is subject to change. Leave your stereotypes at home. (Yes there are some blond tribal enrolled Indians... no ones fault that life goes on!)

11) If you are asked to dance by an elder, do so. It is rude and disrespectful to say, I don't know how. How can you learn if you turn the elders down?

12) Most all Powwows do not allow Alcoholic beverages, Gold Paint cans, or drugs here. The Powwow is a time of joyful gathering and celebration of life. Alcohol and drugs are destroying our way of life and these bad spirits are not welcome.

13) It's funny how much trash we as people drop. Make an extra effort to walk to the trash can. Respect Mother Earth.

14) Remember always: Native American Indian dances are more than the word dance can describe. They are a ceremony and a prayer which all life encompasses and produce many emotional and spiritual reactions. Some dances are old, some are brand new... the culture continues to live and evolve.

15) Urban Powwows are much more tense than Powwows on the rez. As people are away from the comfort of culture, they tend to take things more seriously. Abide by peoples wishes and requests. We as Indian people believe differently. Some dance around clock-wise, others counter clock-wise. If our host asks, we sometimes voluntarily show our respect by temporarily changing our way(s). Show your respect by doing the same.

16) Have fun. Buy something from the vendors. Donate if you can. And most of all don't be so uptight and relax. The whole universe comes together this day to celebrate. You are invited to join in.

Please remember, these are general rules when there is no other ground work to proceed from. Hope this helps.

Addendum to list on Pow-wow rules:

Some groups believe that children should make their own way around the dance ring, so they frown on carrying your child as you dance. I have always carried my grand children, whether the group likes it or not. But, then I'm a tribal member. If I were a visitor I guess I'd follow the rules.

In addition, some groups don't believe that people should touch each other when they dance, except for the 49 or Two Step dances. This is a rule that I respect, except when someone is truly reluctant to get up and try it. Then I offer to link arms and they soon get over their shyness.


MOST OF ALL: when the announcer calls an Intertribal dance, the persons who have come to pow-wow as visitors should respect the call and get out on the dance ring. There is a reason for this. It is not polite to watch as others perform. Pow-wow is really about honoring the circle, not letting others do the honoring for you. I realize that some folks feel self conscious about getting the moves right, but I have never witnessed any ridicule of anyone's dancing. A good Anishinabe friend of mine suggests that we each develop the policy of leaving our egos on the seat when we get up to dance. That way, they can't be influenced by the thought that we might look out of place. No one is out of place in the circle.--Mary Ritchie:Potawatomi

I am a Northern Traditional Dancer from Pine Ridge SD. I have danced at pow-wows since the age of 5years. Having danced Fancy and Grass styles and run the White Wolf Singers out of Denver CO, I know a few things about pow-wows.

1) Pow-wows are NOT I repeat NOT traditional in any way. The modern day pow-wow was formed in Oklahoma after the traders decided that they could bring tourists into their areas by having the people play Indian. Although the dances derive from traditional ceremonies and dress, a person from the 1800s would not recognize any part of a modern pow-wow.

2) I have seen so much change, I remember seeing what was called a bustle dance. The traditional dancers would remove their eagle feather bustle and place them on the floor and then dance around it! Now when even one Eagle feather drops the pow-wow is stopped and the feather is picked up with more or less ceremony. This ceremony is now (traditional).

3) I always hear people complain about prize money. The contest is what pow-wows are about today. The things that we love about dances is all the bright colors and lots of dancers, the more the better in fact. If no prize money was offered at the pow-wow the outfits would not be so flashy and fun. (remember the old fluffy bustles of the 60s). Also most of those dancers came from some other city, rez, state, or Country do you think the Jonathan Windyboy, Eli Tail, Terry Fiddler, and others travel all summer with Government checks. The pow-wow circuit lasts from March to Sept so you can bet that they don't have jobs. Prize money allows everyone to see the best dancers and here the best singers of North America in your home town.

Two years ago I met a jingle dress dancer from Alberta at the Oglala Nation Fair in Pine Ridge she said I have made 22 thousand dollars so far this year we wont go hungry this winter. So in as few words as possible NO CASH NO BIG POW-WOWS.

4)public invited all drums and dancers welcome. Read your flyers most should have that statement on or near the bottom. I support any dancer that takes the time and effort to make a good outfit and dances with respect, every dancer should feel the same way. The more dancers the better the pow-wow. If a dancer is mistreated for amy reason that dancer should leave the arena or arbor and forget about ever attending or supporting that pow-wow committee or group ever again. If there is prejudice or Mixed blood Full blood craziness forget it they are not worth your time. Hang out with your friends meet people and engage in some friendly competition, that is what pow-wows are all about today. -- David Browneyes

Frequently Asked Questions » United Indians

When is the Pow wow?
Where is the Pow wow located?
Will there be Camping Available?
Will there be showers on site for campers?
Where should I park?
Does it Cost anything?
Where can I found out what the Dance “Specials” will be?
What is a “coming out”?
Can Spectators dance/participate in the Pow wow?
What is a Regalia?
Can I take Pictures?
What is a Pow Wow?
What is a “Grand Entry”?
What is a Flag Song?
What is an Honor Song?
What are the different Dance styles?
How do Royalty dancers get their titles?
How can I Help?

When is the Powwow?

The Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow takes place July 21-23, 2023. (Fri-Sun).

  • Friday, 4pm-10pm
  • Saturday, 10am-10pm
  • Sunday, 10am-6pm

Where is the Powwow located?

The Powwow will be held at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.

  • 5011 Bernie Whitebear Way, Seattle, WA 98199  (Directions: Click here)

Where should I park?

The Event will be held at the Circle in the upper field. Parking will be located at the NORTH Parking Lot.

Will there be Camping Available?

Yes, Camping will be available. It is $25 for the weekend. Security will be issuing camping permits at the drive-in gate.

Will there be showers on-site for campers?

Yes the Showers are located in the same area as previous years. If you need help locating them, ask a volunteer or security at the camp or pow wow grounds.

Does it Cost anything?

We suggest a $10 donation for admission, but feel free to pay what you are able.

Note: These donations help offset the cost of operation for the pow wow. The cost to hold this Cultural Celebration and Community Educational event is $100,000+ each year. This includes the rental of equipment such as speakers, bleachers, stage equipment, permits, security, generators, lavatory units, the contest payout to dancers, drum day pay and much more. Without these, the pow wow would cease to continue.

Where can I found out what the Dance “Specials” will be?

You can find the “Special” listed on the PowWow event page.

Note: “Specials” refer to special contests sponsored by the pow wow committee or community member(s) or families. For example, sometimes Outgoing Royalty will have a special, where the family sponsors a contest of their choosing. Or a family is sponsor a special contest in honor of a loved one or for a dancers “coming out”.

What is a “coming out”?

A dancer’s coming out refers to that dancer joining the dance circle as a serious dancer. A dancer can have a coming out special at any age.

Can Spectators dance/participate in the Powwow? 

Yes. Everyone is welcome to dance in the Intertribal Dance – even tourists! Listen for when the Emcee announces an “Intertribal” dance, please come join dancers in the dance circle. Rounds of Intertribal dancing usually take place between the contest dances.

What is a Regalia?

Regalia is the proper term to use when referring to a dancer’s outfit. Please do not call it a costume. Dancers may find it offensive.

Can I take Pictures? 

It is permissible to take pictures during much of the pow wow. If you are not sure always ask, since taking pictures of some activities is not allowed. Please ask dancers if it is OK to take his/her picture before hand. Some dancers may refuse to accept any money in exchange for taking a photo with him or her, others might ask for that money be placed in the pow wow donation box in support of the event.

Note: During certain ceremonial dances, honor dances or prayers the announcer may request that no pictures be taken. Please abide by the announcer’s request.

What is a Powwow?

A Powwow is a gathering where Native American dancing, singing and celebration take place. It is a special time for people to gather and celebrate, meet old friends and create new friendships. In early times, hunters would invite their friends and relatives to share their good fortune. As time went on, while the meal was being prepared, relatives would dance to honor their host. Eventually, the dancing became the main focus of the event. Participants began to use this time to display their weaving, quill work and other finery. Pow wows also had religious significance. They were an opportunity for families to hold naming and honoring ceremonies. Pow wows have changed over the years. However, they are still gatherings where Indian people can share part of their tribal traditions and culture. But they should not be confused with other tribal customs and ceremonies that are not performed or shared in public gatherings. Pow wows have changed over the years. However, they are still gatherings where Indian people can share part of their tribal traditions and culture. Today, pow wows, or celebrations, are still very much part of the lives of many Native Americans. In the Northern Area, the pow wow season can begin as early as March; from June through September several pow wows, also called celebrations, take place—somewhere—every weekend. Many families pack up and go on the circuit, camping out and enjoying the celebration activities, singing, dancing and seeing friends they may not have seen since the previous season. A pow wow may have dancing and singing contests, “give aways,” encampments, feasting and other cultural activities. In present times, activities such as handgames (stick games), horse races, softball tournaments, parades, pow wow princess contests and other events have been added. Most religious ceremonies are no longer part of the pow wows. For instance, naming ceremonies are now more often conducted in the privacy of a family; however, some small pow wows do include naming ceremonies. Honoring ceremonies and ceremonies for a dropped eagle feather remain today.

What is a “Grand Entry”?

Although pow wows may differ, depending on the location or type, the following is the system used by the Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow and many other pow wows. First the eagle staff is carried into the circle, followed by the American, Canadian, state and tribal flags, followed by the Veterans, Head man & Head woman dancers, title holders from tribal pageants. Next followed by Golden Age dancers Men’s category, Women’s category, then Adult Men’s Categories (Traditional, Grass, Fancy) followed by Adult Women’s categories (Traditional, Jingle, Fancy), teen boys and girls, Junior boys and girls, finally tiny tots.

What is a Flag Song? 

When the Grand Entry song ends, there is a flag song, an equivalent of the National anthem. Everyone will be asked to stand and remove hats, unless the hat has an eagle feather attached.

What is an Honor Song?

Note: Spectators should always stand and remove their caps or hats during and Honor Song. As the name suggests, Honor Songs are requested at the pow wow/celebration to honor someone. Perhaps a family would request an honor song for a community member who is sick or in memory of a deceased relative.


What are the different dance styles?
  • Men’s Traditional dance is just that: a traditional dance held over from times when war parties would return to the village and dance out the story of the battle, or hunters would return and dance their story of tracking an enemy or prey. Tradition dancers wear a circular bustle of eagle feathers, representing cycles and the unity of everything. The eagle feather spikes on the bustle point upward, representing a channel between the Great Spirit and all things on earth. Traditional dancers often carry shields, weapons, honor staffs and medicine wheels.
  • Men’s Fancy dance is a relatively new dance. Fancy Dancers wear brightly colored feather bustles. This dance is based on the standard double step of the traditional grass dances but it takes off from there with fancy footwork, increased speed, acrobatic steps and motions, and varied body movements. The Fancy Dance is also a freestyle kind of dance.
  • Men’s Grass dance is very popular. Dancer’s outfits feature a good deal of colorful fringe and many wear the hair roach. The Dance involves the ball of one foot being tapped on one beat and places down flatly with the next and repeated with the other foot without missing a beat. The dancers should also keep their heads moving either up or down with the beat.
  • Women’s Traditional dance is a very proud and regal dance. The women’s traditional often includes the Coast Salish and Alaskan dancers in this Category. Regalia’s are made up of either fully beaded buckskin tops, Cloth long fringe, or coastal button blankets. The temp and steps are often slower than other dances and the movement is a steady short step or sometimes stationary.
  • Women’s Fancy Shawl dance is a relatively new addition to the dance competition. The outfit consists of a decorative knee-length cloth dress, beaded moccasins with matching leggings, a fancy shawl and various pieces of jewelry. The dance itself is similar to the mens fancy dance , and the style is moving toward more movement and especially spinning. Footwork is the chief element of the dance.
  • Women’s Jingle dance according to one account, originated from a holy mans dream of 4 women wearing jingle dresses appeared before him. The dress spread out from the Ojibway territories. The dress consists traditionally of 365 metal cones or jingles and symbolize each day of the year. Contemporary dresses will have various amounts of jingles.

Click Here to view video clips of our previous Seafair pow wows

How do Royalty dancers get their titles?

A relatively new addition to the pow wow scene is the Royalty Contest. Many pow wows hold a Princess and Warrior contest for young women or men to represent their tribes, communities or cultural groups. Since Indian tribes do not have royalty the Princess designation is in name only.

How Can I Help? 

VOLUNTEERS. Seafair Indians Days Powwow can always use happy energetic volunteers. If you are a student who is looking to join a college powwow committee and would like to get some experience in the working of a powwow, sign up to volunteer! If you are looking to learn more about the culture and would like to connect with our great urban Native community sign up to volunteer! If you would like to build or working out doors sign up to volunteer for set up and break down! There are many different opportunities for Volunteers! Email our Volunteer Coordinator for more information at: volunteers@unitedindians. org 

DONATIONS. If you had a good time at this pow wow or attended in prior years and would like to contribute to the pow wow, donations are accepted via donation boxes at the event or online at anytime:

Support the preservation of this Cultural Celebration and community educational event: CONTRIBUTE NOW

Pow wow -

For the articles of the same name, see Pow wow (disambiguation).

Powwow is a collection of North American Indians. Traditionally, it was a religious event (shamanism) or a celebration of martial deeds. Today there is a real "chain" of powwows, which have become festive events and an opportunity for the Indians to bring their cultural heritage to life. Powwow is a meeting holiday and is seen in the Amerindians as a privileged moment for everyone to get closer to the core and exchange with family and friends. nine0003

Powwow, Omaha, 1983.


  • 1 story
    • 1.1 Etymology
    • 1.2 Origin
    • 1.3 Suppression of Native American dances in Canada and the United States
      • 1.3.1 Canadian Law Enforcement
      • 1.3.2 US repression
    • 1.4 Cultural festivals
    • 1.5 Organization
    • 1.6 How it works powwow
    • 1.7 Dancing nine0022
    • 1.7.1 Men's dances
    • 1.7.2 Women's dances
    • 1.7.3 Mixed dances
  • 2 Notes and references
  • 3 applications
    • 3.1 Bibliography
    • 3.2 Related Articles
    • 3.3 External links
  • History


    The word " pow-wow " is derived from the word pow -wow or powow , which refers to a spiritual leader, physician , or a gathering of spiritual leaders in Algonquian. European Americans believed that the word denoted any gathering of indigenous peoples and corrupted its pronunciation to powwow . Over time, while learning English, Native Americans also began to use the term with its new pronunciation and new meaning.


    Some sources indicate that the powwow was rooted in the Pawnee religious ceremony and was practiced at least 2 centuries ago. The warriors gathered to dance and celebrate their exploits and good fortune. This custom was adopted by the Omahasa Nation and later spread to other Indian peoples of the Great Plains. Other sources state that powwows originated from a ceremony held by the Warriors Society called " Grass Dancers" .

    The first modern powwow appeared about a century ago on Native American reservations in the northwestern United States and Western Canada.

    Suppression of Native American dances in Canada and the United States

    Native American dances were frowned upon by the natives, who considered them war dances. In addition, it was clear that these ceremonies and dances played an important role in the identity and culture of the First Nations and that they made it difficult for them to assimilate, so they were subject to repression by the First Nations. US and Canadian governments. On the other hand, the leaders of the Christian churches strongly opposed all traditional religious beliefs and their manifestations, such as ceremonies and dances. nine0003

    Repression in Canada

    In Canada, traditional Aboriginal dances have been banned by the government for decades. An 1880 amendment to the Indian Act prohibited Native Americans from organizing, attending or even attending a traditional ceremony called Potlatch or a dance called Tamanawas, under pain of imprisonment. An 1895 amendment to the same law extended this prohibition to include, among other things, any Native American dance, ceremony, or festival during which participants could receive donations (hereinafter " give "traditions").

    Men and women of Nez Perses and Umatillas gathered at powwow in 1900.

    Following this amendment and the harsh crackdown that followed, First Nations leaders attempted to negotiate the right to dance with the Canadian government, promising, among other things, that the dances would not include a gift ceremony and that “they would be shortened to meet the requirements. to the traditional days of rest for foreigners, namely weekends. nine0003

    So dancing resumed in the reserves, and as it attracted tourists, organizers of various fairs and exhibitions encouraged powwows at their events by offering rations of food or money to participating Native Americans and those displaying wigwams. They organized dance competitions and awarded prizes for the most beautiful traditional regalia.

    These changes have preserved traditions such as Aboriginal crafts, leather clothing and beading, and introduced powwow competitions. Thus, many exhibitions in Canada encouraged indigenous dances, until at 19In 14, another amendment to the Indian Act was not made, this time banning dancing or wearing traditional dance attire outside the reservation under criminal penalties. Finally, in the 1925 Amendment, the Canadian government banned the powwow, the sun dance, and the sweat tent ceremony.

    But during these years, despite these threats, the Native Americans continued to practice their dances in secret and thus were able to maintain the tradition.

    After World War II, several Canadian Native American war veterans called for changes in the law, including freedom of religion and the right to practice their traditional ceremonies and dances. In addition, the opinion of the Canadian population regarding the aborigines has changed. At 1951 saw a major revision of the Indian Act, and among the changes it made, it allowed Natives to legally hold powwows and ceremonies in Canada.

    Repression in the USA

    The US government banned Native American dances from 1880 to 1934.

    Cultural Festivals

    Dancers Grass Dance at Powwow in Seattle in 2010.

    Although it was originally a war or spiritual manifestation, powwow acquired a festive and cultural character. Modern powwows, powwows are generally "inter-tribal", which means that anyone can participate in them. It is also an opportunity to organize dance competitions or traditional craft fairs. It seems that the powwow has become one of the main means of expressing the identity of Native Americans and protecting their cultures. Organized first in the reserves, powwows have bred and can be found, for example, in universities. nine0003

    In Window Rock, Arizona, Pow Wow celebrates the Navajo Nation every year with Indians from all over the country. A young Cree in traditional full dress holds the flag of the United States, as if he also wants to join the Union.

    Ornans Town Hall in Franche-Comté, France, with the help of the Association of the Four Winds , holds powwows every two years. About fifty American Indians from various nations (Navajo, Lakota, Apache, Arapaho, Seneca, Algonquin, etc.) then go on a journey to celebrate their powwow in countries other than their own. This unique event in Europe was first held in 1998 in Lausanne (Switzerland). Since this has been happening in France. This powwow, called "Dance with Lou", establishes a real bridge between two cultures, two stories with one purpose: to share.


    Powwow in the USA in 2002.

    • Location: The powwow can be done indoors, such as in a gym or outdoors. Although there are differences from one place to another, there is usually a central circle where the dancing takes place, called the dance arena. A special place is reserved for the organizing committee, the director of the arena, the master of ceremonies and groups of singers. Seats for dancers and their families are usually located separately from the seating area for visitors. Finally, around these places, craft and food merchants set up shops to sell their products. nine0026
    • Organizing Committee: The event is organized by a committee that has to plan and organize important aspects of the powwow a few months before the event.
    • Arena manager: He is in charge of powwow . He makes sure that the dancers are present during their dances and that the singers know which songs to sing. He is responsible for special ceremonies that can take place during powwow , such as when an eagle feather falls to the ground. Lastly, he makes sure that patrons respect the dance arena and reserved seats. nine0026
    • Moderator: Often referred to as the "MC", he speaks into the microphone to address everyone and thus ensures the integrity of the event. He keeps the audience and participants up to date by announcing upcoming dances or explaining traditions. It is he who conducts the draw and special competitions. The hosts are known for their humor and their call to stimulate the crowd or dancers.


    unfolds powwow

    Carrying out powwow follows strict rules and etiquette.

    Flag Bearers and Officers during the Grand Entrée at Upper Lake Chippewa Pow Wow in the Indian Reserve Grand Portage in 2009.

    Powwow begins with a ceremony called the Grand Entrance, which consists of the opening of the parade. To the sound of songs and drums, those carrying staff (decorated with a stick, representing tradition) open the main entrance, followed by bannermen, veterans, headdancers (dance leaders) and finally all the dancers who will participate in the powwow. When all the dancers enter the dance circle, the singers perform two songs of honor, one in honor of the flags and the other in honor of the veterans. The Great Entrance is closed by the elder's prayer.

    Several styles of dance follow each other, guests are invited to participate in special dances called inter-tribal.

    There are two types of powwow: competitive powwow and traditional powwow. During the competitive powwow, the best singing groups and the best dancers are selected by the judges and receive a cash prize. To attract the attention of the judges, the dancers usually wear brighter regalia. Traditional powwows are non-competitive and focus more on ceremonies, ancient traditions and the spiritual aspect. nine0003

    It is not recommended to use the word "costume" to describe the clothes worn by powwow dancers . This word irritates the dancers because it is too reminiscent of "being in a costume" and this mention is offensive because the dancer does not play a role, he respects who he is. A term commonly used for clothing worn by powwow dancers, - Regalia . These clothes are unique, often designed by the dancer or his family, and in addition to having a sacred aspect, they have a special meaning and symbolism. nine0005 When observing the etiquette powwow , be careful not to touch them without the permission of the participants.


    Competitive or exhibition dances are categorized according to the dance style and age of the dancers. While there are many styles of dance, the most common in North America are:

    Men's dances

    Traditional dancers at the Last Chance Community Pow Wow Festival in 2007 in Helena, Montana. nine0003

    • Traditional men's dance: The origins of this dance date back to ancient times, when warriors and hunters recounted their accomplishments through dance, reenacting their stories of bravery and cunning to show how they pursued an enemy or prey. This dance is still performed today and is popular in powwow . The regalia worn by these dancers have various elements reminiscent of ancient warriors, such as bone arrows, shields and necklace necklace. nine0026
    • Grass Dance : One of the oldest known Native American dances, a dance of rhythm, grace and symmetry. Dancers wear regalia, fringed with ribbons, scraps of cloth or wool. Their steps gently touch the ground, and what they do with one foot, they then do with the other. They also often use head, shoulder, and arm movements and flex the body. Their various movements move the fringe they wear in such a way that it resembles the movement of grass in a meadow. While the origin of this dance is not exactly known, it likely originates from the Warrior Societies of the Omaha Nation. Native American oral traditions say that in the past, dancers Grass Dance danced in some area before the ceremony to gently lay grass on the fields with their dance steps and thus prepare the place for the ceremony. To commemorate this tradition, on most pow- wow dancers of Grass Dance are asked to dance to open pow-wow , even before the Grand Entrance.

    Fancy Feather Dance at the Six Nations Powwow Festival in Ontario, Canada in 2010. nine0003

    • Feather Fancy Dance (also called Men's Fantasy Dance ): This dance was created in the late 1920s and its origins are thought to be from the Ponca, Oklahoma people. This was at a time when Native American dances were banned in Canada and the United States, and when Native Americans were living on reservations, often under harsh living conditions. Although this dance was inspired by warrior dances, it was so different that the authorities of the time considered it acceptable and tolerated it. This dance was performed to please the audience, so it had to be spectacular, with quick steps and sometimes even acrobatic moves such as the wheel, split or back flip. He became popular in shows such as Wild West Show , and allowed Native Americans to keep certain traditions alive at a time when their identity and culture were under threat. It even allowed the best dancers to provide income for the family. The first Fancy Feather Dance World Champion was Gus McDonald of Ponca Nation. The origin of the regalia traditionally worn for this dance is attributed to the Kiowa and Comanche peoples.
    • Prairie Chicken (also called " Chicken Dance" ): " Prairie Chicken " is the English name for the Greater Prairie Chicken , a galline bird known for its spectacular dancing. Native American oral tradition says that a hungry young hunter saw these dancing birds on the prairie and shot one of them. He brought the bird home to share a meal with his family. At night, the spirit of this hazel grouse came to talk to him and asked why the hunter had killed him. The young man replied that in order to feed his family. The bird then taught him how to dance, and he asked him to go dance in front of his people and teach them this dance, otherwise the grouse spirit would return to take his life. Both the Blackfoot and the Cree claim to be the creators of this dance, and each of these nations has a Holy Society.0005 Prairie Chicken Dance where dancers imitate the movements of Prairie Chicken . These dances were once performed as part of the spiritual ceremonies organized by these Dance Societies and they are still performed today. However, within a few years this dance also made its way into Powwow, and today there are Prairie Chicken Dance dancers in North America who are not necessarily part of the Sacred Society of Dancers.
    Women's dances

    Traditional dancer at the festival Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow in Seattle, WA in 2009

    Bell dancers at Last Chance Community Pow Wow Festival 2007 in Helena, Montana.

    • Traditional Women's Dance: This dance is ancient and the honor it brings demonstrates the value of women in traditional Native American societies. Various elements of the dance and regalia pay tribute to the role of women as bearers of life and those who take care of the home and family. Steps, precise and controlled, evoke grace and beauty. Traditionally, the dancers' dresses were made of leather and sometimes woolen blankets. nine0026
    • Bell Dress Dance : ( Jingle Dress ) Contrary to what the name suggests, these dancers' dress is not adorned with bells, but with metal cones that collide with each other during the dance, making their own distinctive bell sound. These cones were traditionally made from pewter tobacco lids and replicas are often used today. The dresses are made of fabric and several hundred metal cones that are attached to the dress with ribbons. The dancer's steps are accurate and close to the ground. It is important that the dance moves make the metal cones ring in time with the music. The dance comes from the Ojibwa people, and was created in the early XX - th th century. Native American oral tradition tells different versions of its origin. In each version, the old man receives instructions for this dance in a dream: he sees how to sew dresses, what steps to dance, what music to play, and the fact that this dance is healing. According to one version, the old man and his wife sew four dresses and ask four women to wear them in the first dance. According to another version, the old man's granddaughter is very ill, and he sews a dress for her, which she wears to the dance. She is said to have improved her health after dancing. nine0026

    Dancer with fancy shawl at Last Chance Community Pow Wow Festival 2007 in Helena, Montana.

    • Fancy Shawl (also known as Women's Fantasy Dance ): In the late 1930s, women adopted the men's dance Fantasy Feathers , wearing regalia, as men's, and following the same steps. Around the 1950s, this dance began to differ from the male dance both in performance and in its regalia . The clothing worn by the dancers was simple, often consisting of a dress and a fringed shawl that the dancers wore around their shoulders. It is a more spectacular dance than other women's dances as the dancers perform quick jumps, kicks and turns to the beat of the music. However, they must do so smoothly and with a certain grace. A metaphor often used to describe 's fancy shawl, is a butterfly, the movements the dancer performs with the shawl resemble the flight of a butterfly. Today's dancers often wear regalia bright, brilliant colors and intricate designs.
    Mixed dances

    Hoop dance.

    • Hoop Dance ( Hoop Dance ): This is a dance that is usually performed alone, and can be performed for demonstration or as part of a competition. Dancing non-stop, stepping to the rhythm of the music, the dancer performs positions and forms with hoops while telling a story. Transitions between its positions should be quick and fluid, and may include dexterous handling of the hoops. He can use one ring, as well as several dozen. The symbols depicted during the dance often refer to nature and animals, and the hoop itself is a symbol of the circle, very present in Native American culture, which represents the cycle of life. In Native American oral tradition, some attribute the origin of this dance to the Anishinaabe Nation and others attribute it to the Pueblo Nation. Although it was originally only men, women entered as participation in the hoop dance competition at the end of XX - th century and it is common nowadays to see women perform this dance.
    • Intertribal dance: this is a dance during the powwow where everyone can participate, including in public, non-natives, people do not wear regalia .

    Notes and links

    1. ↑ " Heritage Day " on Abenaki Nation (accessed 13 November 2011) .
    2. nine0023 ↑ Becky Olvera Schultz, " Native American Powwow History and Description ", on PowWow Power (accessed March 10, 2012) .
    3. ↑ " Graduation Powwow 2012 " from University of Saskatchewan (accessed March 14, 2012) .
    4. ↑ Wendy Moss and Elaine Gardner-O'Toole, " Aboriginal People: Historic Discriminatory Legislation Against Them " on Government of Canada Publications (accessed 14 March 2012) 9" 1923–1950: Williams Treaties and Land Transfer Agreements ", in Canada in the Making - Aboriginals: Treaties and Relations (accessed March 14, 2012) .
    5. (fr) (en) Powwow - website of the Four Winds Association.
    6. ↑ Chris Glazner, Roxanne Solis and Jeff Weinman, " Arena and Staff" [archived ] , on South American Indians Pow Wowsver. 1.2 (as of March 9, 2012) .
    7. ↑ Anna Hoefnagels, " Powwow ", in The Canadian Encyclopedia - Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (accessed March 9, 2012) .
    8. ↑ " Pow Wow Basics " on the website of the National Association of Aboriginal Veterans (accessed March 14, 2012) .
    9. ↑ " Regalia " on Wacipi Pow Wow (accessed March 10, 2012) .
    10. nine0023 ↑ " Traditional Male Dance " on Wacipi Pow Wow (accessed March 15, 2012) .
    11. ↑ " Grass Dance, " at Cultural Heritage Center - Citizen Potawatomi Nation (accessed March 12, 2012) .
    12. ↑ " Grass Dancing History " on Crazy Crow (accessed March 12, 2012) .
    13. ↑ " Male Grass Dance " on Wacipi PowWow (accessed March 12, 2012) .
    14. ↑ " Dancing " from Blackfoot Crossing Historic Park (accessed March 16, 2012) .
    15. ↑ " Native American Traditional Dance ", from Encyclopedia of the American Indian (accessed March 15, 2012) .
    16. ↑ Jennifer Whitefeather Attaway, " Dance Style Jingle ", at Manataka Council of American Indians (accessed March 13, 2012) .
    17. ↑ " Women's Jingle Dress " from Gathering of Nations (accessed March 13, 2012) .
    18. ↑ " Object of the Month - August 2004 - Jingle Dress ", from University of Colorado Museum of Natural History (Viewed March 13, 2012) .



    • (en) Clyde Ellis, Luke E. Lassiter and Gary H. Dunham, Powwow , Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press , , 326 p. Related Articles
      • Native Americans in the United States
      • First Nations

      External links

      • ( fr ) Powwow Kahnawake (Quebec)
      • (en) Princess Pow-Wow Song



      Sergey Filchikov (Tyumen, Russia)

      Every spring in the month of March in the USA, in Denver (Colorado), many Indians gather together. People come from all over the US and Canada to take part in the celebration, starting what is known as the "Powwow Trail" [7, p.1].

      The name of this event - Powwow (or Pow Wow, Pow Wow - from Powwow or Pauau) - comes from the Algonquian language of the Narrangaset Indian tribe, and used to mean a meeting of healers or spiritual leaders of the tribe. Since the end of the 18th century, Europeans began to call so all religious meetings among the Indians [9]. In the future, the Indians themselves began to use this word to refer to any of their meetings, and the more they learned English, the more this word came into their everyday life. But, at first, the Indians called such an event in a different way - a holiday, festival, fair, union [11], etc.

      The history of the Powwow is vague, and there is no exact record of the first (or first) Powwow. One can only assume that it appeared more than 100 years ago, at the beginning of the 19th century. In the southern Plains, Jesuit missionaries contributed to the development of Powwow by listing it as a Roman Catholic holiday [9], observed in these territories. Powwow supposedly originated from the Grass Society dances among the Pawnee, Omaha, and other tribes, and which quickly became the most social dance for all tribes [11]. The Dakota Indians still attribute the origin of the Powwow to the Omaha war dance.

      One of the reasons for the emergence and development of Powwow was "... the increasing penetration of the Euro-American culture, and the decomposition of the collectivist principles on which the traditional social way of the Native Americans is built," writes V. A. Tishkov [1, p. 217]. From the moment the Indians of the Plains were settled on the reservation, all religious ceremonies, and therefore dances, were prohibited. But this only contributed to the development of Powwow. The Grass Dance, as the only social dance, was not banned, and modern Powwow began to form on its basis. This formation was heavily influenced by the tribal war societies and their dances. One of the old legends traces the Powwow dances to the four Omaha brothers who were warriors. Returning from a campaign, they performed a war dance for the entire tribe in commemoration of their success [9].

      It is known that in 1891 there was an attempt to hold a Powwow on July 4 in Arly (Montana) of the Flathead Reservation, but the police and the army dispersed the participants. This attempt is the first documented evidence in the history of Powwow. But already on July 4, 1900 (according to other sources in 1898) Powwow took place in the same place [9].

      Powwow was originally held only on reservations, but then it was held in colleges, public parks, exhibition centers. The first indoor powwow took place at 1954 in Santa Fe in the auditorium of the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi [13, p.32]. This was facilitated by the urbanization of the 1950s and the expansion of contacts between Indians and whites. A little later, the Indians living in the cities began to hold their own powwows.

      From that time, from 1953-1954, women were also allowed to enter the Powwow dance arena [9]. Previously, they were only allowed to stand near the drums and sing. Since the 1980s, the powwow has become a symbol of Native American identity. It's around 9 now0% of Indians attend or participate in various Powwows.

      Powwows take place on weekends and public holidays throughout the year, even around the Christmas holidays, but peak in spring and summer. The powwow in Denver opens a whole chain of events that ends closer to the fall. Many Indians alone and with families spend all this time traveling from Powwow to Powwow. This path is called the Pawwow Trail [9].

      Powwows “…can be small or large, last for hours or days, indoors or outdoors, on reservations, campgrounds, stadiums and high schools… They can be organized by individual families, tribal councils or other tribal organizations, community groups, museums, and Native American student groups,” writes Karen Harvey [8, p. 3]. The main task of large intertribal Powwows is advertising and commerce to raise the necessary funds to support events (including religious ones) on reservations [3, p.424]. nine0003

      Powwow is not a religious event, but it is not a purely secular event either, since in its content (dances and songs) it reproduces elements of religious content, not to mention the rites of the Sacred Pipe, cleansing in the steam room (onikare, Inipi, Sweat Lodge) and the rites of Peyotism using mescal [4, p.220]. “Religion mixes in Powwow,” notes Karen Harvey, because the Indians here “…do not make a distinction. Spirituality, as opposed to organized religion, pervades all traditional Indian life. Art, dance and music are part of spirituality and an integral part of everyday life (and not just casual ceremonies) for many tribes” [8, p.4]. nine0003

      The symbolic basis of Powwow is a circle. It contains two concepts - the circle (cycle) of life and the circle (ring) of unity. The circle symbolizes all the beliefs of the Indians and his whole way of life - unity, equality, harmony, balance. “Everything an Indian does is in a circle,” Black Elk said [5, p.99]. In the center is a round dance arena - it is considered sacred and is treated with respect, like a church. Next to it are tables, drummers and seating for dancers. The second circle is places for the press and spectators. And the third circle is places for trade, etc. nine0003

      Indians gather on Powwow to dance, sing, socialize and discuss their culture. The dance arena hosts important tribal and social events, competitions, exhibitions, dances, drum competitions, ceremonies, gifts, fundraising. Outside the arena are rodeos, parades, sporting events, gambling, craft and arts sales. It also sells everything you need to make dance outfits. The outfits themselves are a combination of different traditions and styles from different tribes. Many Indians use modern materials for them, but there are also costumes made from traditional materials [6]. nine0003

      The powwow begins with the Big Exit and prayer. This action has a sacred meaning and on many Powwows it is forbidden to photograph and film it. At any Powwow there is a strict etiquette of behavior, in which there are quite interesting points: you can’t walk through the dance arena during dances, you need to collect garbage on the territory of the Powwow [7, p.21], alcohol and drugs are prohibited, you must ask permission to take photos and videos [12], etc.

      Powwow music is a combination of drumming, singing and dancing. Powwows almost always have a lot of drums, but there is a main drum that has the most authority. The drum is the central symbol of any Powwow. In Oklahoma, the drums are placed in the center of the dance floor, in turn forming a circle. The southern drums are placed on the four cardinal points. The northern drums are placed outside the arena. People bring water to the musicians and help them in every possible way if necessary. nine0003

      Many dances are performed during Powwow, which are based on religious ceremonial dances, previously performed only by cult members and only during ceremonies. There are inter-tribal and competitive dances. The most popular of the inter-tribal ones is circular, or even in several circles. Competitive dances have become popular since the 1920s. There are almost always cash prizes at competitions, but because of this, there is also an entry fee for participants in the competition [6]. The description of styles of dances and outfits is present in many authors [7, p.13], [2]. nine0003

      If during the dance it happens that an eagle's feather falls out and touches the arena, everything stops and the ritual cleansing of the dance arena is carried out. A fallen feather is perceived as the spirit of a deceased warrior, which must be taken care of immediately. The ceremony is performed by four veterans. The senior veteran, chosen from the soldiers wounded in battle, picks up a pen and passes it to the owner with a story about a military episode or an episode from his service in the army [6]. Veterans and modern warriors enjoy the highest respect on any Powwow of any tribe [2]. nine0003

      According to William Richard West, a Southern Cheyenne Indian, dance is an embodiment of Indian values ​​and a response to complex and difficult historical transitions. Dance is a vital means of survival for Indian culture [9].

      But the most important moment of Powwow is the potlatch, or the process of giving gifts, well described by James Moore [10, p.308-316]. If dances on Powwow are a kind of advertising campaign that attract people with their entertainment, then potlatch is Powwow's "finest hour", since it is by how it went that they will judge whether the holiday was good. nine0003

      At the end of Powwow, the committee would like to thank everyone who came and wish them a safe journey home. People express the hope that they will see each other again next year, because the most important thing on Powwow is the meeting of old and new friends. Traditions of honesty and nobility are preserved here, which are passed down from generation to generation [9]. The development of culture and the continuation of tradition is the main task of Powwow. If earlier Powwow was a holiday among the Indians of the Plains, then it spread further. Thus, it became the first pan-Indian festival. “Powwow is a place of healing, prayer, dancing and singing… when you are sad, come to Powwow and you will be happy again,” said Tony Brown [8, p.3]. nine0003

      Summing up, we can draw some conclusions. The formation of the modern look of Powwow was impossible without European influence - unwittingly, but the Europeans (white settlers in America) themselves created this cultural phenomenon. At the moment, Powwow is the first, and so far the only, festival for all Indians in North America. The event itself is social, but with some elements of religion (both traditional beliefs and Christianity). Holding Powwow contributes both to the transmission of traditions from generation to generation, and the development of Indian culture and society as a whole. On Powwow there are the main values ​​​​of the Indians - dancing and potlatch. That is, Powwow is a certain point of concentration of the foundations of modern Indian culture. nine0003

      1. Indigenous population of North America in the modern world / ed. Tishkova V.A. – M.: Nauka, 1990. – 400 p.

      2. Powwow of Native Americans [Electronic resource] / Access mode:; January 29, 2012

      3. North American Indians / ed. Averkieva Yu.P. – M.: Progress, 1978. – 496 p.

      4. nine0023

        Stelmakh V.G., Tishkov V.A., Cheshko S.V. A path of tears and hopes: A book about modern Indians in the USA and Canada / V.G. Stelmakh, V.A. Tishkov, S.V. Cheshko. - M.: Thought, 1990. - 316 p.

      5. Black Elk. Sacred pipe / Black Elk. – M.: Film company SRS, 1994. – 248 p.

      6. Dancers [Electronic resource] / Access mode:; February 2, 2012

      7. Engstrom D. The Denver March Powwow // Denis Engstrom. - Denver Public School, 2001. - 28 p. nine0003

      8. Harvey, Karen D. Dancing the Circle: an introduction to powwows / K.D. Harvey. // Middle level learning. Supplement to National Council for the Social Studies publications. - 2002. - 16 p.

      9. History of the "Powwow" [Electronic resource] / Access mode:; February 2, 2012

      10. Moore J.H. The Cheyenne / J.H. Moore. - Oxford, Blackwell Publ., 1987. - 342 p.

      11. Oxendine, Jamie K. History of the "Powwow" [Electronic resource] / J.

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