Pow Wow Etiquette

Posted By Paul G July 24th, 2011

1. Be on time. The committee is doing everything possible to ensure that activities begin and run smoothly. Please cooperate in this regard.

2. Appropriate dress and behavior is required in the arena. Anyone unwilling to abide by this rule will be asked to leave by the Arena Director. (If you are going to dance, try to wear dance clothes.)

3. Arena benches are reserved for dancers. Dancers wishing to reserve a space on the bench should place a blanket in that space before the dance begins. Please do not sit on someone else's blanket unless invited. Uncovered benches are considered unreserved.

4. Listen to the Master of Ceremonies. He will announce who is to dance, and when.

5. Respect the position of the Head Man and Head Woman Dancers. Their role entitles them to start each song or set of songs. Please wait until they have started to dance before you join in.

6. Dance as long and as hard as you can. When not dancing, be quiet and respect the arena

7. Be aware that someone standing behind you may not be able to see over you. Make room, step aside, sit, or kneel if someone is behind you.

8. Show respect to the flags and Honor Songs by standing during “special” songs.” Stand in place until the sponsors of the song have danced a complete circle and have come around you, and then join in. If you are not dancing, continue to stand quietly until the song is completed.

Image of Pow Wow Etiquette9. While dancing at any paw wow, honor the protocol of the sponsoring group.

10. Some songs require that you dance only if you are familiar with the routine or are eligible to participate. Trot dances, Snake, Buffalo, etc. require particular steps or routines. If you are not familiar with these dances, observe and learn. Watch the head dancers to learn the procedures. Only veterans are permitted to dance some veteran's songs, unless otherwise stated; listen to the MC for instructions.

11. The Flag Song, or Indian National Anthem, is sung when the American Flag is raised or lowered. Please stand and remove hats during the singing of this song. It is not a song for dancing.

12. Powwows are usually non-profit. It depends upon donations, raffles, blanket dances, etc. for support. Donations are encouraged as a way to honor someone. Any participant can drop money onto the blanket to aid in the powwow expenses. Support the committee and buy raffle tickets.

13. Certain items of religious significance should be worn only by those qualified to do so. Respect the traditions of Native American culture.

14. Giveaways, attributes of Indian generosity, are held at many dances. They are acknowledgments of appreciation to recipients for honor given. When receiving a gift, the recipient thanks everyone involved in the giving. Note: all specials and giveaways must be coordinated with the Master of Ceremonies. Please remember that it is traditional to make a monetary contribution to the drum for this request – clear this through the MC.

15. The Drums are sometimes closed, check with the head singer for permission to sing.

16. If at any time you are uncertain of procedure or etiquette, please check with the MC, Arena Director, or head singer. They will be glad to help you with your questions.

17. Take a chair. Most powwows will not have seating for the public or enough seating for everyone. Also remember that the benches in the arena are for dancers only.

18. No alcohol or drugs are allowed at powwows.

19. If taking pictures, asked the dancer first. Remember common courtesy and ask permission. Group photographs are usually alright to take, but you might want to ask the committee first.

Remember that in each area you travel to and visit, things can and will be slightly different than your area. Different groups and have different customs and methods of doing things. Different is not wrong, just different. Be respectful of the uniqueness of each pow wow and always be aware of proper pow wow etiquette.


8 thoughts on “Pow Wow Etiquette

  1. Hi,my daughter&i watched the winterfest 2016 on January 29,30,31.It was on live stream,thank you for the live stream.We live in michigan&both my uncles are Indian,cousins are half Indian,my daughter have had a school teacher who was Indian.We live near Tecumch Mi.& we have gone to 2 pow wows their,out door ones.but it’s hard to find ones their,not sure if they still come to Tecumch,he was an Indian worrior Then left their&their is another town called Tecumch in Canada across from detroit river,their is a city named wyondotte,mi.We both love pow wows,we also new a lady her dad was from one tribe&her mom was from another tribe,she used to dance in pow wows,in 2008, she moved to Tennessee,my father in law used to say when he dies he hopes to go to the great hunting grounds in the sky.My one uncle said that’s somethings an Indian would say?My father in law has passed&I’m devoriced now,tho I think the Indian culture in very cool,for,a better word.royce walker. P.S. I hope I got signed up ok for the newsletters.

  2. Sue Lloyd says:

    Really informative, respectful & gentle. I grew up in Oklahoma. Discovered a great grandmother was half Cherokee. My father, now deceased, was a member of the Tribe. I intend to investigate that. Support for the Dakotas. I hope to see a Pow Wow near Miami in the near future. Thank you. Sue L.

  3. I was looking at the Native American Heritage Site. It offers a 13 day trial. It indicates by registering you agree to the terms and conditions. The site didn’t let you see them before you register. What’s up with that?

  4. When I am going on a vacation to states other that the one I live in I always try to visit different TRIBAL VILLAGES to learn about the TRIBES and the way the NATIVE AMERICANS lived, beliefs, foods, etc.
    The one thing that I learned through my travels is that the idea of people taking any photographs is that it is a form of stealing the spirit of the individual(s) and that they do not want certain ceremonies photographed for privacy purposes so that is why it is a great idea to ask first before taking any pictures.
    I always look forward to my next vacation to locate another NATIVE AMERICAN VILLAGE to learn even more.

  5. Georgia says:

    I am bringing my daughter and my husband to the powwow festivities in honor of my birthday.
    We have attended dances at various pueblos and powwows in Ojai California and in Taos and I have always wanted to attend GON.
    Do you any particular suggestions along the lines of etiquette for non-Native American attendees?

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