Pow Wow Etiquette – Native American Pow Wows

Posted By Paul G July 19th, 2011 Last Updated on: December 18th, 2019

Everyone is welcome at Pow Wows!  

Pow Wows are one of the best ways to experience Native American culture firsthand.

Before you go, there are some things you should know first.

Related – New to Pow Wows?  Subscribe to our free email course – What to expect at your first Pow Wow

Pow Wow Etiquette

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

2.  Dress appropriate
Appropriate dress and behavior are 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.  Don't sit on benches for dancers
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.

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.

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 area.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Pow Wow Etiquette – Native American Pow Wows

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I am looking for the info on Pow Wow celebration dates for Caledonia, Ont. unable to find it. Kindly forward the link/website information.
Thank you so much.


I read the pow wow rules. I’m not an indegenis person however I would like to attend. So if I read correctly you can bring a chair to sit. Do you need reservations to attend or just show up and watch the activities. Not sure what to do. I would like to follow the respectful protocol.


Thank for the insight:)

[…] first-timers a list of Pow Wow etiquette is available. Tapahonso also talked about the emcee hosting the event, “He’s wonderful about […]

Gerald Daniel

I’ve always thought very highly of the traditions of our indigenous family’s and look forward to Washington next powwow…


Thank you for this awesome information!!! Now I know and understand the ways of our people and the proper Pow Wow Etiquette.

Thank You very much!!!

Gerald Daniel

I’ve always thought very highly of the traditions of our indigenous family’s and look forward to Washington next powwow…

David L Kauffman Jr

im not a native american but ive allways wanted to attend the local Pow-Wow,is attendance at a Pow-Wow ok if you are not a Dancer (you thought i was gonna say not an Indian)?.ive been told others were not allowed to be there,unless the person is family of a dancer,is this true?.or just idle talk of people not in the know?
another thing i was told is that if you are going to attend..never bring food from outside…always have food thats provided at the Pow-Wow..this true?
Thanks Dave Kauffman Jr

David L Kauffman Jr

that was short n sweet…lol…thank you.id still like to know about the food issue though..should i just talk to someone in the local tribe?..the rez is just down the street from me..i once had several native american girls as gfs..maybe one will still talk to me?..lol

Thanks Dave

Bob Hill

Im a Veteran and would like to learn the dance and clothes or shirt and the things held in the hands how can i find out more info.

l spencer eaglewolf

iam native american AI it will be my first time attending a powwow should i pertisipate or should i be part of the audience and watch and be quiet

Valerie Clark

I am planning to attend a pow wow in Bozeman MT this coming April Since it is my first time observing a pow wow, I would like to know if I could take pictures. I am an amateur photographer and am not sure of the proper etiquette. Thank you for your advice.

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