Has This Happened To You? Powwow Winner Waiting to Get Paid

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown May 16th, 2016 Last Updated on: May 16th, 2016


The Algonquin River Powwow of Champions was recently held the weekend of May 6-8, 2016 at Credit Island in Davenport, Iowa. Like most pow wows, many traveled far and wide for the event, especially dancers who frequently compete for prize money.

One dancer was Thelma Whitewater, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. As she told KWQC-TV 6, Whitewater has danced in powwows since the 80’s and travels to many powwows throughout the year.

“You’re with other Natives, the music, the heartbeat of mother earth, you feel close to mother earth, a lot of times within that circle it’s sacred, you say prayers in there too,” said dancer Thelma Whitewater.

She’s back home in Nebraska now, planning her next trip. She travels to Powwow’s advertising paid competitions. That’s why she came to Credit Island this past weekend for the Algonquin River Powwow of Champions. She paid $20 to get in, just like the public, and performed four times. She won the old style jingle and placed in the women’s fancy competition. Whitewater’s total winnings: $1,400. At the end of the Powwow she went to the office to collect her money.

“A lady came out and said they didn’t have no money, she said she was given an i-o-u,” said Whitewater.

A press release was shared with news station KWQC-TV 6 from The Mississippi River Indian Alliance of the Quad Cities about the payment issues. Here is an excerpt below:

The Celebration, although an emotional and moving experience for some, fell short on expectations of attendance from the local area probably due to weather forecasts and the multitude of other events happening simultaneously within the Quad Cities.

Contributions from local area groups along with the gate fees and sales of soft drinks generated for this event helped to offset the cost in several different areas of service for this event, portable restrooms, lighting, a soft drink company, and a professional sound company to mention a few, these companies were all paid. Also, the Master of Ceremonies, winning dancers and singers were given a monetary amount which varied in size from being fully paid to partial payments, everybody who filled out a 1099 form received some payment, with assurances of a complete honorarium to be reconciled. The Mississippi River Indian Alliance of the Quad Cites is working with local groups and individuals to remedy any shortages in the windfalls. The MRIAQC
states, “all who are owed will be compensated any shortage.”

I hope they have made or will make good on their promise! Has this ever happened to you at an event? What did you do?

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About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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Starla Taylor

Yes, same thing happen to my 10 yr old daughter @ the Choctaw Powwow Dec 2015. She competed in the Jr Southern Cloth dance and place 3rd with the winnings of $20. Its not much but to her it meant a lot. She was just recently disburse May 8,2016. What is the reason why the children have to fill out a 1099 especially if the winnings is not a huge amount. SMH.


Yes, there are lots of pow-wows that do not pay out or deliver what they promised or advertised. Of course this is not right, legal, or ethical.

It is buyer beware, when you go to pow-wows. A dancer must think, “What kind of reputation does this pow-wow have”? If it is an old established pow-wow, no problem. If it is a new pow-wow, you may be taking a chance on it. Who sponsors the pow-wow a casino or a private entity.

The biggest mistake that pow-wow committees make is assuming they will make their payout money at the gate by charging entry fees or admission fare. There may be also individuals who just do it to be greedy and pocket the money and disappear. That happens too..

Personally for me I only have been “shafted” by 3 pow-wows in my life. I consider that to be lucky.

One last comment, is bring enough money(Frogskins)to get you back home, in case you don’t win. Don’t be like some people and end up begging at the end of the pow-wow to have money to get home. You can always sell your plasma too…

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