Pow Wow Etiquette Information- Native American Pow Wows

Pow Wow Etiquette Information- Native American Pow Wows

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.


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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.

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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.

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Paul G


30 Comments on “Pow Wow Etiquette Information- Native American Pow Wows”

  • Avatar for Mary M . Smith

    Mary M . Smith

    says:

    Eager to learn more

  • Avatar for MWH

    MWH

    says:

    Going to a Haliwa Saponi Pow-wow, where do I purchase authentic clothing? I live in Michigan.

  • bro if you got skecthers on get out my face bro bubububahubuabbhuabhabub.
    ITS CORN!!! A BIG LUMP WITH KNOBS.
    goofy ahh uncle production.
    quandal dingle.

  • bro if you got skecthers on get out my face bro bubububahubuabbhuabhabub.
    ITS CORN!!! A BIG LUMP WITH KNOBS.
    goofy ahh uncle production.
    quandal dingle.

  • Avatar for Deena Winter

    Deena Winter

    says:

    Can’t wait to attend again!!

  • Avatar for Richard Sheffield

    Richard Sheffield

    says:

    Wish there were more pow wows in Michigan as I grew up with over the last 50 years. We’d even travel to Cromwell, IN and others in close by states. I miss the variety and number. Walpole Island even had one, which I’m not sure if it is still helpd.

  • Avatar for Lorrie

    Lorrie

    says:

    Just read through your Pow Wow Etiquette guide. Very thorough, thank you. Only one typo near the end (paw wow). But I’m not Native American. So, I’m wondering if you would consider either writing a guide for the non Native American visitor or add some specific rules just for us. Because I still don’t know whether I would be allowed to “dance” or does each step mean something. And I would not want to disrespect tradition.

  • Avatar for SHOBHA SHINDE

    SHOBHA SHINDE

    says:

    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.

  • Avatar for Rosann

    Rosann

    says:

    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.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Some Pow Wows have tickets you need to purchase ahead of time. Most don’t. You can just show up and be a spectator!

      • Avatar for Rosann

        Rosann

        says:

        Thank for the insight:)

  • Avatar for Gerald Daniel

    Gerald Daniel

    says:

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

  • Avatar for LISA ALLEN

    LISA ALLEN

    says:

    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!!!
    Lisa

    • Avatar for Gerald Daniel

      Gerald Daniel

      says:

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

  • Avatar for David L Kauffman Jr

    David L Kauffman Jr

    says:

    Hello,
    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

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Pow Wows are open to all to come and watch!

      • Avatar for David L Kauffman Jr

        David L Kauffman Jr

        says:

        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

  • Avatar for Bob Hill

    Bob Hill

    says:

    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.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Try our forums:
      newpowwows.www.powwows.com/gathering

  • Avatar for l spencer eaglewolf

    l spencer eaglewolf

    says:

    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

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Listen to the MC. Some Pow Wows will have times when you can participate. The MC will tell you.

  • Avatar for Valerie Clark

    Valerie Clark

    says:

    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.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      In most cases you are ok to take pictures of the dancers in the arena. Listen to the MC to hear when it is not appropriate. For people outside the dance arena, please ask their permission first.

    • Avatar for Rhi

      Rhi

      says:

      Many elders and Tribal members believe that picture taken of them steals their soul. Do not take pictures without asking permission first. And don’t be surprised when/if your told no as stated, no one wants pieces of their soul stolen by anyone at anytime.

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