Celebrating 20 Years Of Bringing Native American Pow Wows to the World

Celebrating 20 Years Of Bringing Native American Pow Wows to the World

Can you believe it? We've been streaming pow wows live for two decades now!

It's been a wild ride filled with incredible performances, unforgettable moments, and technological challenges. I want to highlight some of the special moments and people that helped along the way.

When I started building a webpage back in 1996, I never dreamed of creating PowWows.com. I was just playing with HTML. In 2004, I had no idea how to livestream and no intention of starting.

Here's how it all started!

Tahnee Ahtoneharjo-Growingthunder and her mother Sharon Ahtone Harjo were on the committee of the Red Earth Pow Wow in Oklahoma City. They were active in the rodeo circuit. Rodeos had recently started streaming their events live, and they saw the impact. Tahnee wanted the same for Pow Wows! Tahnee and Sharon reached out to me about streaming Red Earth in early 2004. I tried hard to get out of it!

There were several challenges before I could fly to Oklahoma. That same weekend I was a groomsman at a friend's wedding – in Columbia, SC, a long way from Oklahoma. On top of that, I had no idea how to stream. I would have to figure out the hardware in just a few weeks – that was before Best Buy and Amazon's 2-day shipping.

But they were insistent! After several phone calls, they figured out a way to get me to Oklahoma to stream the Pow Wow on Friday and then fly home early Saturday morning for the wedding.

I was only going to be able to stream the Friday sessions. As it turns out, that year of Red Earth's schedule was different than usual. The afternoon would be a regular Pow Wow session. The evening was a concert by Indigenous. The afternoon session went great. Lots of people tuned in to watch the first-ever live stream of a Pow Wow. The Pow Wow ended midafternoon around 4:00. The concert wasn't scheduled to start until 7 or 8. The venue staff started setting up chairs for the concert, they had hundreds to set up. Since I only had 1 day to stream, I decided to just let the stream continue. And I'm so glad I did! During the 2 hours of watching the chair setup, the community of PowWows.com bonded in the chat room.

I left Oklahoma inspired by the possibility of this new platform!

In these early years of streaming, I was working full-time for the state of South Carolina. I had very little leave time and had used all of it traveling to a few Pow Wows. My supervisor was very flexible and supportive. She was able to work out a way for me to take leave without pay for the Pow Wow trips so I could save some of my leave for family vacations.

I want to say a special thanks to a few Pow Wow committees. Red Earth, Hunting Moon, Manito Ahbee, and Morongo were the first Pow Wows to have PowWows.com stream their events. Their trust and support were crucial for our success.


20th Anniversary Celebration

Of course, we are going to celebrate! We are giving away a Pendleton Blanket! Enter daily!
20th Anniversary Live Stream Giveaway


Pow Wow Live Stream Team

The streams became popular instantly. You, the community of PowWows.com, wanted to see more Pow Wows live.

I was the bottleneck for growth. With that full-time job, I could only travel to so many Pow Wows. The real growth and success of our live streams is because of our team. Thanks to the PowWows.com Gathering forums, I had several people volunteer to help.

The first person to travel with me was Stay Ray (Felix). She grew up attending Pow Wows in Oklahoma. Her help was invaluable. She was full of energy and ideas.

The next member of the live stream team was Ryan McDonnell (Toolbox on the forums). Ryan's background is in broadcast and AV engineering. His knowledge of equipment has saved me (and cost me – with his suggestions) lots of money. I have sent him countless texts and emails asking about which camera is better or how to set things up. In 2016 Ryan traveled with me to Morongo Pow Wow. Since then he travels to several Pow Wows each year for PowWows.com.

Micheal Gabbard (ndnsooner on the forums) and his wife Delores Gabbard have had an incredible impact on our streams. Micheal started helping PowWows.com in 2002 with programing. Then Micheal started helping with streaming in 2007. He first traveled with me to Manito Ahbee and other Pow Wows. Then he started streaming Pow Wows without me being there. He has grown the Pow Wow live streams from 7-10 events each year to 25 in 2023. His tireless commitment has shared Pow Wows and Native culture to millions of more people.

During the weekend of January 26, 2024, he and his wife streamed 2 Pow Wows. Micheal left Brandon, Manitoba Saturday morning and drove 4 hours to Bismarck, North Dakota – and back!

PowWows.com is blessed to have this team!

Around The World

Our live streams have reached thousands of viewers around the world! In 2023 we streamed 25 events with a social media reach of 21 million people in 176 countries.

Impact of Pow Wow Live Streams

The best reward from streaming is your feedback. I love hearing from people around the world watching a Pow Wow for the first time, a veteran overseas feeling connected, an elder who is not able to travel watching from home, or family members seeing a loved one on screen. The following are just a few of the messages I have received over the years.

From Dián:

I can only express my spiritual happiness for the Live Stream Pow Wows in humble words. Mere words do not have the capacity to explain how much the Live Stream Pow Wows have enriched my life. My wish is that more often than not the Pow Wows are Streamed Live AND we are given at least a day or two to plan around these events. Being Cherokee and Nansemond Indian with ties to theSeminole and Blackfoot tribes, experiencing Pow Wows LIVE is priceless.

Native peoples must continue to maintain and educate the elders and youth that have lost touch or would not have the opportunity to experience closeness to Indian Tribal Culture without these Live Streams. I look forward to joining in the festivities very soon. In the meantime, keep the Live Streams coming and give us a few days heads up to plan to attend online.


From Rosa:

I love the web cast as they allow me to watch pow wows that I can’t attend. My favorite would have to be any of them with the tiny tots. As they are our future. Thank you for the webcast. I hope you will be able to share them from other pow wows in the future.


From Philaina:

I was sitting at home, with my two daughters, contemplating how their lives could be enriched with memories. I remembered how pow wow made my life brighter, even just for that one time I danced at mission pow wow, that one weekend. It helped me escape. Life took over and my parents did not support pow wow life. So that was it. However, that memory prompted me to search for pow wow videos on YouTube. I found a gathering of nations pow wow clip and we watched it all day. My daughters were enthralled and taken by how many natives there were in one place. All dancing or singing or spectating. All happy. They wanted to go right away. So I stood up and folded a sheet in half and danced for them. Saying powwow is in your heart. Dance whenever and wherever. They were amazed that i could dance like the girls on our TV. “You look like her!” They said.


Online Comments:

Thanks for broadcasting it. I got to see my family dance and get honored!
Aloha from my Beautiful State of Hawaii! Looking forward to seeing this share.
Watching from Botswana…I love it
Watched from Las Vegas. Would loved to have been there in person. You feel the spirits around you when you are there in person that you don't feel while watching it online. It's still a beautiful site to behold no matter how you view it
Halito I was so excited for this weekend but guess who got pneumonia! Ugh!!! 😩 but I’m glad I can see through this live ! Yakoke


Support PowWows.com's Live Streams

We need your support to make that happen!

Join our supporters on Patreon!

Your monthly contribution will help us expand our live streaming to more Pow Wows. We want to show you more about Indian Country and explore Pow Wows from different regions.

You can also make a one-time contribution using this form.


Support Pow Wow Live Streams

Thank you for all your support!


20th Anniversary Live Stream Merch

You can also help support our live streams by shopping at the Pow Wow Shop!

Shop Amazon To Support PowWows.com

You can also shop on Amazon.com using these links to help support PowWows.com! Amazon pays us a commission and it costs you nothing extra!

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Most Popular Videos

Below are a few of the most popular videos from our live streams!

Which one is your favorite?

Grand Entry - 2018 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

Women's Jingle - 2019 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

Hand Drum - 2015 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow - PowWows.com

Beautiful Daughter Hand Drum - 2015 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow - PowWows.com

Crowning of the new Miss Indian World - 2019 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

Dad and Son Special - 2019 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

 


2 Comments on “Celebrating 20 Years Of Bringing Native American Pow Wows to the World”

  • Avatar for Deborah P.

    Deborah P.

    says:

    Congratulations on stepping out into this new and exciting adventure. That includes all the hard work I know you put in to accomplish it. I love the videos that include the little ones what a treasure to experience! Be still my heart .And I have a deep love of horses so seeing the rodeos with native participants is something I would love to see! Thank you for all you do it takes root where you plant it. Take Good Care of You. A Treasure Beyond Measure

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Thanks!

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