HISTORY OF THE POWWOW

HISTORY OF THE POWWOW

Posted By Jamie K Oxendine October 30th, 2011 Native American Articles

HISTORY OF THE “POWWOW”

By Jamie K. Oxendine, Lumbee/Creek

Editor, PowWows.com

Director, Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation

Before the term “powwow” became popular, various words were used to describe this cultural phenomenon.  Some of these included: Celebration, Doing, Fair, Feast, Festival Gathering, Happening, Indian Dance, Rodeo, Show and Union.  The term “powwow” is actually a North Eastern Woodland word belonging to the Narragansett Language and the closest English translation is “meeting.”

The modern day powwow evolved from the Grass Dance Societies that formed in the early 19th Century.  The term “Grass Dance” can get rather confusing because there is also a style of dancing called “Grass Dance” that became very popular during the reservation period in the mid 19th Century.  The Grass Dance Societies were an opportunity for the warriors to re-enact deeds for all the members of the Tribe to witness.

The removal period increased the growth of the reservations and this soon gave rise to the modern powwow.  This transition for Native Americans often put Tribes at odds with other Tribes they did not know and manyTribes that were bitter enemies found themselves very close neighbors.  A compromise and compilation of traditions had to take place in order for the people to survive.

Many ceremonies and customs were outlawed during the reservation period.  The Grass Dance being more social was one of the only events allowed.  As so many Tribes were pushed together it was soon clear and necessary to transfer the traditions of the Grass Dance between Tribes.  “Inter-Tribalism” began to emerge with the sharing of songs, dances, clothing, food and art.  Gift giving and generosity became integral aspects of these early festivities and they are still with us today.  Over time the phrase “Powwow” as a term for meeting or gathering became very popular and has been used widely to describe the cultural event since the mid 20th Century.

By the 1980s the Powwow had become extremely popular and even commercial.  In some cases it became a great show for both the Native and Non-Native crowd.  While there had been competition at powwows and competition powwows in the past, the rise of the 1980s brought about better prizes and better organization of the competition powwow.   A new evolution could be seen across Indian Country that increased the interest in both the Native American culture and the powwow to both Native and non-Native people.  As the 1990s came about, large casinos got in the act of promoting both competition and non-competition powwows to promote not only the most obvious but also the culture of the Tribe that owned or operated the casino.

Finally by the emergence of the 21st Century more Natives were calling for a return to the old ways and the earliest ways of the gathering.  Soon the old terms and old ways started to appear more and more at both competition and non-competition events.  To promote and get more interested in the old ways, many big money competition powwows have added new categories of dance and dress that is really the very old ways of dance and dress.  With this they hope to create a re-newel interest of the old ways.

BUT Regardless of the term used to describe it – today’s gathering or powwow bases itself on the fundamental values common to Native Americans across North America: Honor, Respect, Tradition and Generosity.  Along with their families, thousands of singers, dancers, and vendors follow the Powwow Trail all over the entire continent to share and celebrate the culture.


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About Jamie K Oxendine

Jamie K. Oxendine, of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, is the Native American Liaison and Education Consultant for Ohio University in Athens. Ohio. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Toledo teaching “Indians of North America” and at Lourdes University teaching “Native American Culture” for the Lifelong Learning Center. A frequent speaker on Native American topics, he serves as the director of the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation in Ohio. As a recording artist, he was three times been nominated for a NAMMY (Native American Music Award).



Comments

21 thoughts on “HISTORY OF THE POWWOW

  1. Ai Dingane says:

    I thought the article was great, but one minor detail I’d like to know is which tribes preformed the powwow.

  2. Berlie Barnhill says:

    This is good but can you tell me when the first pow wow was in the south (Lumbee Tribe)? I have heard many things. Also when the Lumbee Tribe first played stickball?

  3. Caminadno Cuervo the Good Hunter says:

    I am not trying to open old wounds because obvioulsy I would grevioulsy affected however it is not supersizing how many different ceremonies and rites have been band over the course of history in dealing with the US government

  4. Hans Beks says:

    Dear all,
    I am Deacon in the Catholic church and I’m looking for prayer beads used in different religions or still in use.
    By Native Americans |I have never read anything about prayer beads. Therefore I want to ask you are prayer beads in use or where prayer beads in used by native Americans, and when this is is it possible to let me know how I can get this over

    Hans Beks
    [email protected]

  5. Molly LaBadie says:

    The Powwow Trail was something I was not familiar with. Being able to travel along year round and participate in the multiple Powwows must be an amazing experience.

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