A Pow Wow is a Native American tradition that brings together many different tribes and communities. It’s a special event for Native American communities that celebrates dance, song, and socializing and honors a rich heritage. While some Pow Wows are private and only for various Native American communities, many are open to the public. If you see it listed in our Pow Wow Calendar, it is open to the public.
Pow Wows are amazing celebrations to experience in person, which is why all should visit one at least once in their life. But if you do, here are some things you need to know when attending a Pow Wow. If you are not able to travel to a Pow Wow, you can watch them live on PowWows.com.
See our schedule of upcoming live Pow Wow streams.
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Pow Wows are events that celebrate Native American tradition and demand respect from those attending.
The dance arena features a circle, which is usually blessed and reserved for the dancers. Don't walk across it!
In general, it’s important to be respectful at all times when attending a Pow Wow.
Elders have a significant place in Native American culture. When attending Pow Wows, keep elders in high regard. If you’re healthy, it’s deemed polite to give up your seat or place in line to an elder. Also, be respectful of the dancers and singers and their regalia. It’s not polite to call their colorful native dress “costumes.” These pieces of clothing are handmade and can take many months to create. Some are even family heirlooms, having been passed down from several generations. These are not entertainers, but rather members of a Native American community, who are celebrating their cultural heritage with others.
Pow Wows are not something Natives do as a hobby. This is a way of life and part of the culture.
Are Pow Wows Open To The Public?
Yes, Pow Wows are open to the public! People from every background are welcome to attend the celebration of a Pow Wow. You don’t have to be Native American to attend.
Basic Pow Wow Etiquette
Can I take photos and video?
Many singers and dancers will allow you to take photographs with them. However, it’s best if you ask first. Don’t assume that you can record or take pictures during the Pow Wow and ask before you do it. Listen to the Emcee when recordings are not allowed.
Stand Up For The Grand Entry
All Pow Wows begins with a Grand Entry. This is when all dancers enter the circle and art is led by the Veterans and Head Dancers. An opening prayer is also said. During this time, please stand up, refrain from talking or eating, and do this at each Grand Entry.
Can I dance?
Pow Wows sometimes feature an “Inter-tribal” dance that follows the Grand Entry. This is a special dance that invites all to join in and dance together inside the arena circle. You may choose to join in despite not wearing any regalia. However, if you do decide to join the dance, always walk with the beat and be considerate of those around you. If you’re not sure of how to dance, simply watch how other women and men of your age are dancing for guidance. Enter the arena with respect. Conduct yourself in a reserved manner.
Can I bring my children?
Pow Wows are family events and children are more than welcome. Please go over Pow Wow etiquette with children old enough to understand. Have smaller children be mindful of the event, too. Children are more than welcome to join in on some of the dances. However, there are times when they shouldn’t join the arena since some dances are competitions between dancers.
Do I need to bring a chair? Is there reserved seating?
The seats closest to the arena are reserved for dancers and singers, so please don’t sit in them. Also, don’t walk or run between the drum and any chairs surrounding it. Dancers will also leave blankets on the benches or seats to reserve their place. Don't move the blankets or sit on them.
Check the Pow Wow information on our calendar or on their flyer about seating. For some outdoor Pow Wows, you may need to bring your own chair.
How can I support the Pow Wow?
If you can, please donate during the blanket dance. These are funds that will benefit the group, tribe or community being honored at the Pow Wow.
The Pow Wow may also have raffles. Purchasing tickets helps the organizers pay the expenses of the Pow Wow.
In addition, shop at the vendors! Supporting the artists, food vendors and crafters is important!
What Should I bring?
Do not bring alcohol, drugs, and firearms to a Pow Wow.
Bring a chair, bring cash for raffles and blanket dances.
What Should I Wear?
Casual clothes are appropriate. Jeans, shorts, t-shirt are all acceptable. Refrain from wearing offensive graphic shirts.
How Do I Find A Pow Wow To Attend? Are There Pow Wows Near Me?
There are thousands of Pow Wow events every year across America. Finding one near you is easy when you use the Pow Wow Calendar on PowWow.com. You’ll be able to find numerous Pow Wows in your area no matter where you live!
One of the biggest misconceptions about powwows is that there's a single overarching organization, and they tour around America like a traveling circus.
But here's the truth: each powwow stands as its own entity. Whether it's a casino-sponsored, tribal powwow, or even a combination of both, they have their distinct identities. Sometimes, the structure of powwows is under a 501(c)(3) or LLC for legal purposes, but they are not all interconnected.
Have Fun And Learn
Pow Wows are wonderful family events not only to enjoy but also to learn. Each tribe will have their own customs and this means not all Pow Wows are always the same.
Want to learn even more?
Hear advice from Pow Wow dancers and singers!
Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Paul G