What to Bring to a Native American Pow Wow

What to Bring to a Native American Pow Wow

Heading to a Native American Pow Wow is an awesome way to immerse yourself in vibrant culture, music, and tradition. It's a day full of festivities, and being prepared can make it even more enjoyable.

Here’s my guide to what you should bring along.

1. Respect and Open-mindedness

  • Respect for traditions: Pow wows are cultural and spiritual events. Show respect for the ceremonies, dances, and traditions being practiced.
  • Open-mindedness: Be open to learning and experiencing new cultural practices. Engage with vendors, ask questions, and participate respectfully.

2. Respectful Attire

While there is no strict dress code, wearing respectful and modest clothing is appreciated. Consider the following:

  • Comfortable shoes: Pow Wows often involve a lot of walking and standing.
  • Layered clothing: Temperatures can vary throughout the day, so dressing in layers helps you stay comfortable.
  • Cultural sensitivity: Avoid wearing clothes that could be considered offensive or inappropriate, such as costumes or items that mimic traditional Native regalia unless you are a participant.  

3. Seating

  • Folding chair or blanket: Many Pow Wows are held outdoors, and seating might not be provided. Bringing a portable chair or blanket ensures you have a comfortable spot to watch the events.

4. Sun Protection

  • Sunscreen: Essential for outdoor events to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Hat: A wide-brimmed hat can provide shade and keep you cool.
  • Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun, especially during midday events.

5. Hydration and Snacks

  • Water bottle: Staying hydrated is crucial, particularly if the weather is hot.
  • Snacks: While there will likely be food vendors offering traditional Native American foods, bringing your own snacks ensures you have something to eat if you have dietary restrictions or if the lines are long.

6. Cash

  • Cash: Most Pow Wows will have raffles and blanket dances.  These help raise money for the Pow Wow Committee, singers, and dancers.  Make sure you have cash to contribute.  Also, many vendors and food stalls may not accept credit cards. Bringing cash, including smaller bills, makes transactions easier.

7. Camera or Smartphone

  • Camera: Capturing the beauty and vibrancy of the dances and regalia is a highlight for many attendees. However, always ask for permission before taking photos, especially of individuals.
  • Smartphone: Useful for photos, navigation, and emergency contact. Ensure it's charged, and consider bringing a portable charger.

8.  Tobacco

  • Tobacco:  Offering tobacco is a sign of respect.  If you are someone for a photo, for example, offering tobacco is appropriate.  

8. Miscellaneous Items

  • Notebook and pen: If you’re interested in learning more about the culture, you might want to take notes.
  • Ear protection: For young children or those sensitive to loud noises, ear protection can be helpful during the drumming and singing.
  • Hand sanitizer: Handy for maintaining hygiene, especially after eating or using public facilities.
  • Bug Spray:  At outdoor events, you want to protect against mosquitoes and other bugs.

What Not To Bring To Pow Wows

While it’s important to pack the essentials for a pow wow, it’s equally crucial to know what to leave at home.

First and foremost, avoid bringing any alcohol or drugs. Pow wows are family-friendly and often spiritual events and the presence of substances like these is highly disrespectful and typically prohibited.

Similarly, refrain from bringing pets unless they are service animals. The environment can be crowded and loud, which can be stressful for animals and disruptive to the event.

Another important consideration is your attire and accessories. Avoid wearing clothing or accessories that mimic traditional Native American regalia if you’re not a participant. This includes feathered headdresses, fringed outfits, or any item that could be seen as cultural appropriation. Also, steer clear of loud or disruptive electronics. Keep your phone on silent and resist the urge to bring loudspeakers or drones, as these can disturb the atmosphere and distract from the performances and ceremonies. Being mindful of what not to bring ensures that you respect the culture and everyone’s enjoyment of the event.

Attending a pow wow is an enriching experience that offers a deep dive into Native American culture. By bringing the right items and approaching the event with respect and openness, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience. Remember, the key to a successful visit is not just what you bring, but also the respect and appreciation you show for the traditions and people you are there to celebrate with.

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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.

3 Comments on “What to Bring to a Native American Pow Wow”

  • Avatar for Isabella Arruda

    Isabella Arruda


    Can I pay with cash to get tickets for the event n where/how do I do this

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G


      Check with the event you want to attend. Each one is different.

  • Avatar for Kenny Stanberry

    Kenny Stanberry


    If you’re not a Pottowatami tribal member don’t bother going to their POW WOW . They only allow tribal members in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Not sure about other states. I’m a proud member of the Oklahoma Choctaw Tribe and we welcome all to our tribal events.

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