August 16th, 2014 Last Updated on: January 7th, 2020
In a collaboration with USA Today, PowWows.com's Paul Gowder rounded up the 10 of the best pow wows in the United States. Did your favorite make the list?
Every year, thousands of American Indian dancers, singers and musicians hit the powwow circuit in family-friendly festivals. “These are full-out cultural events — dancing, music, food, fellowship and tradition, all combined in one,” says Paul Gowder of PowWows.com, which lists more than 1,500 events. “You come face to face with a living, evolving culture.” He shares popular powwows with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Crow Fair Crow Agency, Mont. Now in its 96th year, this gathering is like a state fair for the Crow people. “It's a complete cultural experience,” Gowder says. The August event includes a parade with participants riding horses elaborately decorated with beads and blankets. Perhaps most notable is the tepee encampment with up to 1,000 of the shelters. “It's quite a sight. They call themselves the tepee capital of the world.” www.crow-nsn.gov/crow-fair-2014.html
Morongo Thunder and Lightning Pow Wow Cabazon, Calif. This event (Sept. 26-28) kicks off California's fall powwow season, attracting dancers from around the country. Based at the AAA four-diamond Morongo Casino Resort & Spa near Palm Springs, it offers a luxury setting. “You're right there in a plush resort area. It's well-run, and spectators love it,” Gowder says. It's also one of the few places to see California bird singing and dancing, a distinctive regional style. 888-667-6646; morongocasinoresort.com/wp-content/powwow/pow2.php
4th of July Powwow Cherokee, N.C. While most major powwows are in the West, this one on the Cherokee reservation is among a handful of top-ranked events east of the Mississippi. It attracts a wide following and offers a different experience. “The dance area is gorgeous, with mountain backdrops. It's green and lush and a beautiful location — usually nice and cool with a mountain breeze,” Gowder says. 800-438-1601; visitcherokeenc.com
Hunting Moon Pow Wow Milwaukee While a relative newcomer on the powwow circuit, this fall event (Oct. 17-19) has grown tremendously over the past several years and now is ranked among the top five in an annual poll on Gowder's website. “That says a lot. It's growing really fast,” he says. 414-847-7320; huntingmoonpowwow.com
United Tribes International Powwow Bismark, N.D. This 45-year-old September festival draws more than 1,500 dancers and representatives from 70 tribes, which makes it one of the biggest gatherings in the North Central states. “It's one of the must-dos on the circuit. It wraps up a long summer of powwowing,” Gowder says. This year, it's Sept. 4-7. unitedtribespowwow.com
Denver March PowWow The powwow season kicks off every March with this event, which attracts a huge number of Native American drum groups. These organizations usually have 12 to 15 people with male drummers and female singers. “Some of them have big followings,” Gowder says. denvermarchpowwow.org
Julyamsh Powwow Post Falls, Idaho The largest outdoor powwow in the Pacific Northwest attracts more than 600 dancers and an eager crowd. “It's more of a traditional powwow,” Gowder says. “It's the middle of summer and the middle of the season. The dancers dance on grass.” julyamsh.com
Marvin “Joe” Curry Veterans Pow Wow Salamanca, N.Y. Formerly called the Seneca powwow, this annual mid-July event recently changed its name to honor a tribal member who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. “It's one of the biggest in the Northeast,” Gowder says. senecapowwow.org
Coushatta Pow Wow Kindler, La. Located near Lake Charles, La., Coushatta is one of the biggest American Indian events in the country. And while most powwows feature similar dance styles, this June event also offers a chance to see stomp dancing, a style popular among tribes in the Southeast. 800-584-7263; coushattapowwow.com Gathering of Nations Albuquerque The nation's biggest powwow attracts more than 3,500 dancers and 150,000 spectators during the last week of April. “This is the Super Bowl of powwows. Everybody saves up to come to this one,” says Gowder, whose site offers live webcasts of the events. Activities include a Miss Indian World cultural (not beauty) pageant and even a long-hair contest. gatheringofnations.com
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