February 3rd, 2020 Last Updated on: February 3rd, 2020
Did you know that pow wows are open to the public for all to enjoy?
They’re family-friendly events that can be a lot of fun whether you’re Native American or not. The colorful regalia, beautiful dancing, and wonderful food make a pow wow an amazing event to visit!
However, there are some things you need to know before you attend your first pow wow. We’ve compiled these tips with help from experienced pow wow dancers, singers, and attendees.
Read on to learn what you need to know before your first pow wow!
Want to know even more, subscribe to our free email series – What to expect at your first Pow Wow!
We have a list of Frequently Asked Questions also.
Arrive on Time for the Grand Entry
On the first day of the pow wow, there’s a Grand Entry, which is when the dancers and other important people enter the arena. Sometimes, it’s more like a parade and it can be an amazing sight to see! You will be asked to stand and remove your hat as the flags are carried in and the veterans, chiefs, elders, organizers, and dancers are honored and introduced.
Keep in mind: during the Grand Entry, you’ll need to stop talking, eating, and
taking pictures in order to show respect.
Try the Delicious Food
Pow wows are a wonderful place to experience new foods or enjoy old favorites. Indian fry bread is always a popular choice, whether you’ve been to dozens of pow wows or this is your very first time. Bring money so you can try tasty foods and beverages throughout the pow wow!
Shop - Browse All the Vendors’ Wares
Pow wow vendors often sell beautiful traditional items such as handmade jewelry, pottery, baskets, art, and more. If you’re enjoying the music, you can buy a CD to take home and listen to.
Be sure to have cash on hand so you can support the vendors.
Ask Before Taking Photos of People
To respect everyone involved, you must always ask before taking photos of people.
Also, be aware that there are times when no photos are
allowed, listen to the MC for announcements.
If you want to take a selfie, make sure that it’s an appropriate time, and don’t use it as
a way to take photos of people without their knowledge or consent.
Listen to the Announcer
If they ask you to stand or remove your hat out of respect, you must do so. Also, in many cases, you can learn a lot about ceremonies, dances, music, and history if you listen to the announcer. It’s the best way to ensure that you know what’s going on so you can remain respectful and in-the-know.
Enjoy the Music
Music has a lot of meaning to the tribes involved in the pow wow.
Singing and drumming is the core of the entire pow wow, because there would be no dancing without it! Whether you understand the meaning of the music or not, it doesn’t matter – you can still listen deeply, soak in the sound, and enjoy it.
Do Not Walk Through the Dancing Area or Peoples’ Canopies
The arena where the dancing occurs usually has been blessed. Stay out of the circle unless you are specifically invited in. For example, there may be a children’s event or an intertribal dance when you or your children are allowed to join.
Also, people camp out at the pow wow all weekend and they often have personal tents or canopies that are not for the public to walk through.
Be Respectful of Belongings and the Event Area
If you see any regalia, blankets, or anything else belonging to others sitting around, don’t touch it.
For that matter, definitely don’t touch anyone’s regalia while they are wearing it! Treat people and their belongings with respect and keep your hands to yourself. Clean up after yourself and do your part to keep the area clean and litter-free. If you have
kids, keep an eye on them and make sure they are polite as well.
Bring Your Own Chairs and Blankets
If you see benches around the dancing area, don’t sit on them – they are for dancers and elders.
And if you see blankets or chairs that are unoccupied, they belong to someone who is saving their spot, so don’t move them or sit in that spot. There may be stands to sit in or you may have to bring your own lawn chairs, depending on where the pow wow is being held.
Do Not Dance If You’re Not a Dancer
If the music and dancing make you want to move your feet, we don’t blame you!
But it is generally frowned upon to mimic the dancing in any way. Let the dancers do their dancing.
Right now, you’re a spectator.
Join the Intertribal Dance If You Want
The one exception to the last rule is that you can join the intertribal dance if invited.
Just walk with the beat and watch how others are dancing (keeping in mind that men and women of different ages often have different expected dancing styles). Conduct yourself with respect while in the arena!
Be Ready to Donate to Good Causes
During the blanket dance and other times throughout the pow wow, there will be opportunities to donate to great causes that will benefit the tribe, community, or groups related to the pow wow. Don’t worry if you can’t donate a whole lot, but give what you can.
Be Patient and Aware of Customs
There may be times when the dancing stops. In many cases, if a feather falls from regalia, they will bring the dancing to a halt and do a ceremony over the fallen feather. If this happens, be respectful and patient.
And if you see a fallen feather on the ground and no one has noticed it, don’t
Alert someone to it right away.
Have Lots of Fun
Pow wows have their sacred and serious moments, but they can also be really fun!
You can meet incredible new people, learn fascinating facts about history and culture, enjoy the beautiful dancing, eat amazing food, and so much more.
Enjoy the experience!
And MOST IMPORTANTLY – Treat People Like People
Treat people like people, because they are!
They aren’t characters and they aren’t artifacts in a museum. They have regular lives just like you do and they are taking this time to honor their history and culture. Don’t mimic their dancing or act like a stereotypical “movie Indian.” Don’t be entitled. Some people are happy to talk to you, while others prefer their privacy – just like anyone else.
Strike up conversations, ask questions, but be friendly and respectful at all times and don’t get in anyone’s way.
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