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

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

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. 

Be sure to read our Pow Wow Packing Guide to know what to bring and not bring.

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 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!

How Are Pow Wows Organized?

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!

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

 

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by Paul G

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.


31 Comments on “Pow Wow 101 – Frequently Asked Questions about Native American Pow Wows”

  • Avatar for Robert Ball

    Robert Ball

    says:

    How do I get a New Mexican powwow involved that is not a member or on your listing ?

  • Avatar for Martin Himmelfarb

    Martin Himmelfarb

    says:

    May I bring my dog?

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      You’ll need to ask the local committee about that. Eacn event will have their own rules.

      • Avatar for Meredith McDonald

        Meredith McDonald

        says:

        Hi!!
        I hope you see this! I will be attending this week the 2024 Seminole Pow Wow!! So excited to go. From what I can tell it is inside an arena? Do I still need to being a chair or will there be seating?
        Also, the arena opens at 11:00 am 2-9-2024, is it best to be there at that time or will I be able to get in at 1:00 pm?
        Thank you so much,
        Meredith

  • Avatar for Michelle Amiri

    Michelle Amiri

    says:

    The video Eagle Claw recorded for us, teaching us about the origins of Pow Wow and the meanings behind what is seen there, is the most educational and beautiful and inspiring piece of teaching material I’ve found. I feel greatly blessed to have had opportunity to listen to him and receive his wisdom. Though through a video on the internet, some months or years after the fact, I felt I was standing right with him and he was teaching me like a loving uncle. Very enlightening, and I will happily welcome all opportunities to learn more in the future. Some absolutely gorgeous photos on this site as well. My new favorite source for learning. Thank you greatly for this wonderful work. Many blessings to you all for your hard work and inspiration.

  • Avatar for Debra Wismer

    Debra Wismer

    says:

    So happy I found this website. I have been to only 2 Pow Wows. One when I was maybe 8 or 9 and our Girl Scout troop attended and got permission to dance in it. My mother made our dresses. The other one was In Scottsdale, Az. around 2016. I had know idea there was a certain etiquitte to follow and had brought my digital Canon camera to take many photos. I now know much I did not know. Thank you for having this site. I will enjoy my next Pow Wow with much more knowledge. My favorite was being invited to dance with the women. I felt the Spirit of the dance that day.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Glad you found us! Welcome!

      • Avatar for Sleeping maquila qua qwe aka sleeping holy eagle

        Sleeping maquila qua qwe aka sleeping holy eagle

        says:

        Um..paul…you forgot to mention in powwow 101… ladies do not go to the powwow if your on your moon aka menstruating… it’s right up there with..no booze, no drugs and no firearms! It’s an Ojibwa thing in my neck of the woods! It’s just a very big no no… disrespectful and sacrilegious in a big sense. Thanks.

      • Avatar for Cheryl

        Cheryl

        says:

        What time is the Bird “whistleing”(sp?) On Sunday

        • Avatar for Paul G

          Paul G

          says:

          At which Pow Wow?

  • Avatar for Jane

    Jane

    says:

    Hi it will be the second week of September I believe. Very interested.

  • Avatar for Jane

    Jane

    says:

    Hello, I live in Massachusetts and will be attending a pow wow in Canton. I’m very excited and interested in the spiritual side of dancing and tradition, as in cleansing strength and how sage and tobacco are used.

  • Avatar for Parid

    Parid

    says:

    I have a quick question, May sound dumb but is Native American Mexican?? heard alot of people says this and I want to educate myself because Im a minor.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Some Mexican people are from Indigenous groups. Mostly Native American refers to the tribes in US and Canada.

  • Avatar for Marilia Cristina Cunha Horta Faria

    Marilia Cristina Cunha Horta Faria

    says:

    What year did powwows were allowed to be celebrated again?

  • Avatar for Bill Milner

    Bill Milner

    says:

    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.

  • Avatar for Chase Wyatt

    Chase Wyatt

    says:

    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

  • Avatar for Christine Carleton

    Christine Carleton

    says:

    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,

    • Avatar for Elvia

      Elvia

      says:

      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

  • Avatar for David B

    David B

    says:

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

  • Avatar for Stephen Tidwell

    Stephen Tidwell

    says:

    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.

  • Avatar for Keitha Kakakeway

    Keitha Kakakeway

    says:

    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..

  • Avatar for Pauline M. Brown.

    Pauline M. Brown.

    says:

    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.

  • Avatar for Gia

    Gia

    says:

    That you so much for the etiquette tutorial. As I am polite and respectful to begin with, it is nice to review the protocols when attending. Especially, the reference to giving the Elders their due respect as to letting them go before you in line or giving up your seat. The Grand Entry & standing up for this. Also never referring to their Native dress/regalia as costumes. Not that I ever called it costumes, but it’s great to get the honorable reference that is due because the ancestors and current owners deserve that respect.

  • Avatar for DANNY GARCIA

    DANNY GARCIA

    says:

    DANNY BOY SAYS; TKS FOR ALL THE INFO VERY HELPFUL. LOVE GOING TO THEM. TKS AGAIN.

    • Avatar for Keitha Kakakeway

      Keitha Kakakeway

      says:

      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..

    • Avatar for John Magallan Lopez

      John Magallan Lopez

      says:

      My name is John Magallan Lopez I am a writer a journalist and am a direct descendant of the Tsalagi yi nvdagi. I have a bachelors of arts degree in biblical studies and have been given the revelations of the stars. Blessed is he who has not seen and yet believes indigenous peoples are governed by the laws of nature and unlike the written law the laws of nature
      Can not be misinterpreted or changed.

  • Avatar for markiplier

    markiplier

    says:

    woooooooooow

  • Avatar for Maria medina

    Maria medina

    says:

    What are the name of the indian artist, he was at Arlington tx I bought his pictures but I lost it help

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