Pow Wow Etiquette

Posted By Paul G July 24th, 2011

1. Be on time. The committee is doing everything possible to ensure that activities begin and run smoothly. Please cooperate in this regard.

2. Appropriate dress and behavior is required in the arena. Anyone unwilling to abide by this rule will be asked to leave by the Arena Director. (If you are going to dance, try to wear dance clothes.)

3. Arena benches are reserved for dancers. Dancers wishing to reserve a space on the bench should place a blanket in that space before the dance begins. Please do not sit on someone else's blanket unless invited. Uncovered benches are considered unreserved.

4. Listen to the Master of Ceremonies. He will announce who is to dance, and when.

5. Respect the position of the Head Man and Head Woman Dancers. Their role entitles them to start each song or set of songs. Please wait until they have started to dance before you join in.

6. Dance as long and as hard as you can. When not dancing, be quiet and respect the arena

7. Be aware that someone standing behind you may not be able to see over you. Make room, step aside, sit, or kneel if someone is behind you.

8. Show respect to the flags and Honor Songs by standing during “special” songs.” Stand in place until the sponsors of the song have danced a complete circle and have come around you, and then join in. If you are not dancing, continue to stand quietly until the song is completed.

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9. While dancing at any paw wow, honor the protocol of the sponsoring group.

10. Some songs require that you dance only if you are familiar with the routine or are eligible to participate. Trot dances, Snake, Buffalo, etc. require particular steps or routines. If you are not familiar with these dances, observe and learn. Watch the head dancers to learn the procedures. Only veterans are permitted to dance some veteran's songs, unless otherwise stated; listen to the MC for instructions.

11. The Flag Song, or Indian National Anthem, is sung when the American Flag is raised or lowered. Please stand and remove hats during the singing of this song. It is not a song for dancing.

12. Powwows are usually non-profit. It depends upon donations, raffles, blanket dances, etc. for support. Donations are encouraged as a way to honor someone. Any participant can drop money onto the blanket to aid in the powwow expenses. Support the committee and buy raffle tickets.

13. Certain items of religious significance should be worn only by those qualified to do so. Respect the traditions of Native American culture.

14. Giveaways, attributes of Indian generosity, are held at many dances. They are acknowledgments of appreciation to recipients for honor given. When receiving a gift, the recipient thanks everyone involved in the giving. Note: all specials and giveaways must be coordinated with the Master of Ceremonies. Please remember that it is traditional to make a monetary contribution to the drum for this request – clear this through the MC.

15. The Drums are sometimes closed, check with the head singer for permission to sing.

16. If at any time you are uncertain of procedure or etiquette, please check with the MC, Arena Director, or head singer. They will be glad to help you with your questions.

17. Take a chair. Most powwows will not have seating for the public or enough seating for everyone. Also, remember that the benches in the arena are for dancers only.

18. No alcohol or drugs are allowed at powwows.

 

19. If taking pictures, asked the dancer first. Remember common courtesy and ask permission. Group photographs are usually alright to take, but you might want to ask the committee first.

Remember that in each area you travel to and visit, things can and will be slightly different than your area. Different groups and have different customs and methods of doing things.

Different is not wrong, just different. Be respectful of the uniqueness of each Pow Wow and always be aware of proper Pow Wow etiquette.



Comments

19 thoughts on “Pow Wow Etiquette

  1. Hi,my daughter&i watched the winterfest 2016 on January 29,30,31.It was on live stream,thank you for the live stream.We live in michigan&both my uncles are Indian,cousins are half Indian,my daughter have had a school teacher who was Indian.We live near Tecumch Mi.& we have gone to 2 pow wows their,out door ones.but it’s hard to find ones their,not sure if they still come to Tecumch,he was an Indian worrior Then left their&their is another town called Tecumch in Canada across from detroit river,their is a city named wyondotte,mi.We both love pow wows,we also new a lady her dad was from one tribe&her mom was from another tribe,she used to dance in pow wows,in 2008, she moved to Tennessee,my father in law used to say when he dies he hopes to go to the great hunting grounds in the sky.My one uncle said that’s somethings an Indian would say?My father in law has passed&I’m devoriced now,tho I think the Indian culture in very cool,for,a better word.royce walker. P.S. I hope I got signed up ok for the newsletters.

  2. Sue Lloyd says:

    Really informative, respectful & gentle. I grew up in Oklahoma. Discovered a great grandmother was half Cherokee. My father, now deceased, was a member of the Tribe. I intend to investigate that. Support for the Dakotas. I hope to see a Pow Wow near Miami in the near future. Thank you. Sue L.

  3. I was looking at the Native American Heritage Site. It offers a 13 day trial. It indicates by registering you agree to the terms and conditions. The site didn’t let you see them before you register. What’s up with that?

  4. When I am going on a vacation to states other that the one I live in I always try to visit different TRIBAL VILLAGES to learn about the TRIBES and the way the NATIVE AMERICANS lived, beliefs, foods, etc.
    The one thing that I learned through my travels is that the idea of people taking any photographs is that it is a form of stealing the spirit of the individual(s) and that they do not want certain ceremonies photographed for privacy purposes so that is why it is a great idea to ask first before taking any pictures.
    I always look forward to my next vacation to locate another NATIVE AMERICAN VILLAGE to learn even more.

  5. Georgia says:

    I am bringing my daughter and my husband to the powwow festivities in honor of my birthday.
    We have attended dances at various pueblos and powwows in Ojai California and in Taos and I have always wanted to attend GON.
    Do you any particular suggestions along the lines of etiquette for non-Native American attendees?

  6. Chantel says:

    I have always been drawn to the beautiful culture, and I remember being little and attending a POW wow. The feeling still sits with me!— I would love to experience one again with my little ones, but I am nervous and feel like I’m intruding. Do you have any specific information to ease my thoughts, do you think it’s appropriate even, for someone who is not First Nations to attend ?

    • Derwin Decker says:

      By all means go! Attend with a good heart and spirit. Ask questions if you do not know and don’t take anything personally. There are “Traditional” native people who hold strong to not letting non native people feel welcomed or share their knowledge with which I believe is sad. However there are those of us who have also been taught and guided by elders that our native traditions are meant to help heal all of Creators children. Be respectful to the best of your ability. One thing to keep in mind is that the traditional dress that native people are wearing and dancing in are not costumes! They are made with good hearts and good prayers. Their “Ragalia” which we call them, honors all of those things that the person is is attracted to such as colors, people, earth, wind, fire, water, animals, birds, flowers etc. If you have felt the “Spirit move you” then you have an understanding of the reason why native people come together for a powwow. Derwin Medicine Bear D.

      • Malissa Delgado says:

        Dear Mr. Medicine Bear,
        I am a teacher in Kentucky who works with children in a therapeutic facility. I am taking my students to a Pow Wow in September, and I am preparing to teach them the proper etiquette for this event. We are learning the history of our Native people’s, and I don’t teach the text book version. I teach my students the different nations, where they were located, indigenous foods, the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee, resettlement, about the small pox blankets, and “Indian” schools. I teach them about the US governments documented plans to annihilate native culture, and I teach them about modern day Natives as well.

        I was wondering if you have any more suggested topics I can cover with them, and if you could advise me on what to expect at the Pow Wow, as well as proper etiquette. I appreciate any suggestions and tips you might provide, and thank you, in advance, for any time you can give this.

    • I have attened many Pow Wows and I am not Native American.
      I have always felt welcome, even honored by some, when I am there.
      Respect..is the word I would use for anyone going to a pow wow. I never take pictures, as YEARS ago, I was told by an Osage that taking one’s picture is not appreciated.
      Go and embrace that “feeling” that still sits with you.

  7. ROBERT says:

    MY MOTHER WAS BORN IN OKLAHOMA IN 1925 WE ARE TO CERTAIN WHICH TRIBE SHE WAS FROM SHE SAYS APACHE AND SHE NEER KNEW HOW TO READ OR WRITE , MOM DIED IN PALO ALTO HOSPITAL IN 2010 ? THE WERIED THING ABOUT THAT IS THE NIGHT WE ARRRIVED THERE I MET A NATIVE MAN IM NIOT SURE FROM WHICH TRIBE AND WE TALKED AND HE WAS A SILVER MAKER HE SAID ? ALSO HE SAIDD TO ME IF AND WHEN YA MOM DIES ITS A LIFES LESSSON ? A FEW DAYS B4 MY MOM DIED AT THE HOSPITAL SHE KEPT TALING ABOUT HER CHILD HOOD IN OKLAHOMA AND SAYS TO FOLKS IN HER TALKS THAT SHE WAS APACHE AND NOT TO BOTHER HER ? YEARS B4 MOM HAD DIED ? MY SISTER WENT TO OKLAHOMA ND BY CHANCE WALKED THE AREA SHE GREW UP IN ? AND FOUND SOME FOLKS WHO REMMEBERED MY MOM ?LIKE FROM 60 YRS AGO WOW = CEMENT BARTON AND CYRIL OKLAHOMA ? I HAVE 1 LIVING UNCLE LEFT AND HE TALKS ABOUT OKLAHOMA HES LIKE 95 THE LAST OF MY GRAND MA KIDS

  8. Aho. My favorite thing in the world is Native drumming, singing and dancing. Both my maternal grandmothers were Native American and both were born in undeveloped areas of early Oklahoma and never obtained birth records, Social Security cards or anything validating our tribal affiliation. I was gifted a beautiful Turtle Dance shawl by a fellow veteran and it is one of my prized possessions. It depicts my veteran status. In which dances would I normally be welcome.

  9. I was not raised knowing about the Native American culture. As an adult, I “found” Pow Wows!!!! I attend them as MY church. The “energy” at these gatherings superceeds anything I have found any where else. Both of my daughters have attended them with me from when they were very little. As grown adults, they still attend the pow wows in So. California. My 1st grand daughter attended her FIRST pow wow thus June. We had a hard time getting her to leave the arena. As a 18 month old child, she just wanted to dance in the center with the other dancers. She too will become a follower of the pow wow culture. By the way, we are not Native American.

  10. Noreen Schaan ( Ironchild) says:

    This is so good to know for all who attend pow-wows.. even those of us who are First Nation people. So often people just don’t know to keep these things in mind. Either they are unaware or they don’t go to many pow-wow celebrations and are still unaware. Thanks for sharing this. Have a wonderful pow- wow attendance everyone! 😊💖👍

  11. Sheila Crabtree says:

    Since my first visit to Cherokee, N.C. at the age of 6, I have been drawn to Native Americans. I discovered about 30 years ago that my paternal grandmother was 1/4 Native American, so I feel that must be why I felt such a connection. We have no idea of what tribe. She died at the age of 42, not long after giving birth to the 2nd set of twins. She had 12 children total, and all have passed on except for 3 (my dad being one and who is 81.) It has always saddened me that I never knew her. There are so many questions I would’ve loved to been able to ask her, especially about her Native heritage.

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