Pow Wow 101 – Frequently Asked Questions about Native American Pow Wows

Pow Wow 101 – Frequently Asked Questions about Native American Pow Wows

Posted By Paul G September 15th, 2018 Last Updated on: June 2nd, 2020

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, 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.

Learn more about Pow Wows with our free email series – What to expect at your first Pow Wow.

Be Respectful

Pow Wows are events that celebrate Native American tradition and demands 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 regards. 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 welcomed to attend the celebration of a Pow Wow. You don’t have to be Native American to attend.

Basic Pow Wow Etiquette

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 for when recordings are not allowed.

Stand Up For The Grand Entry

All Pow Wows begin with a Grand Entry. This is when all dancers enter the circle and art 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.

Children Are Welcomed

Pow Wows are family events and children are more than welcomed. 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 competition between dancers.

Reserved Seats

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.


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.

Bring Your Own Seating

There might not be enough seats for the public, so you can bring a chair or a blanket to sit on.

What Not To Bring

Do not bring alcohol, drugs, and firearms to a Pow Wow.

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.

How Can I Find A Pow Wow To Attend?

There are thousands of Pow Wow events every year across American. 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!

Want to learn even more?

Hear advice from Pow Wow dancers and singers!

Advice For First Time Pow Wow Visitors From Pow Wow Dancers and Singers


Home » Blog » Pow Wow 101 – Frequently Asked Questions about Native American Pow Wows

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Marilia Cristina Cunha Horta Faria

What year did powwows were allowed to be celebrated again?

Bill Milner

Nice job Paul G. You make this white senior citizen feel very welcome. I will be attending at least one Pow Wow this year. I live near two Montana Reservations.

[…] Pow Wow 101 – Frequently Asked Questions […]

Chase Wyatt

Is it disrespectful for a white man to learn any of the styles of dance such as grass or traditional? Or to dance those in the Inter-tribal? Thank you

Christine Carleton

I understand that there are Jingle Dress dance competitions at Pow-Wows, are there any other competitions…like knife skills, sharp shooting or tracking skills? Working on a fiction story and my protagonist needs to have some survival skills. She is an Ojibway woman. I appreciate your time and any suggestions you might have,


your tribe and tracking skills are a sacred thing and just anything you learn them or be born into that kind of thing like medicine man im am a cherokee

David B

Another duplicate bonus code, previously used elsewhere on the site.

Stephen Tidwell

I have been (was) an old style dancer for many years in Indian hobbyist and scouting. We followed the pow wows and competed in the southeastern Indian dance festival in Baton Rouge many years ago. We tried to keep the respect and dignity alive in our local area and pass down to the younger generations. Then life got busy, raising a family, work and military service but through it all kept a hand in where ever and when ever I could. Now I am retired and a whole new generation of young people don’t know what our heritage is all about. I am not registered but know the legends my grandmother told me when I was very young. I still have some pieces of my regalia, mostly shirts and legging. I still have my yarn woven leg ties and sash and an old hair roach. But my skill is lacking in restoring my regalia to life with traditional, woodlands, old style dress. I am from south Alabama and have returned to our family land and want to be as active as my health will let me. If there is someone who reads this who thinks they can help me in some way I would be truly grateful. All those who I was associated with a family members with the skill and knowledge to do this have crossed over. Their spirit is what keeps me motivated. I found this website and am putting it out there as they say. Spirit send me someone.

[…] Read more Pow Wow Frequently Asked Questions […]

Keitha Kakakeway

I have been to my first powwow this year..it was the one outside of Redwood Meadows here in Calgary Alberta Canada. I was very moved with everything that was going on..of course I came away with some jewelry and bannock… which was so tasty.. there were 5 of us and I was the only one who knows about powwows..it a first time for my friends… they loved it and plan on going to another one… Yes it’s powwow time in Canada..

Pauline M. Brown.

I was wondering if you put me in the right direction on being able to read about your traditions please? I love watching the odd gathering that is on Facebook but would prefer to read the history. I live in Leeds, Yorkshire , England. Hopefully I would be able to get books from the library. I doubt I would be able to see your powwows live but still like the colourful traditions . Yours, Pauline Brown, Mrs.

Free Email Series: What to Expect at Your First Pow Wow