Bringing traditional beliefs of the past into the future  

Dancing Little Feathers:

Red Spirit Women:

Colorado Native Heritage:

What is a Pow-Wow

Pow Wow time is the Native American people's way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships and make new ones.

This is a time to renew thought of the old ways and to preserve a rich heritage.

There are several different stories of how the Pow Wow was started. Some believe that the war dance societies of the Ponca and other Southern Plains tribes were the origin of the Pow Wow.

Another belief is that when the Native Americans were forced onto reservations the government also forced them to have dances for the public to come and see. Before each dance they were lead through the town in a parade,which is the beginning of the Grand Entry.

Pow Wow singers are very important figures in the Native American culture. Without them there would be no dancing. The songs are of many varieties, from religious to war to social.

As various tribes gathered together, they would share their songs, often changing the songs so singers of different tribes could join. With these changes came the use of "vocables" to replace the words of the old songs. Thus, some songs today are sung in vocables with no words.

Yet they still hold special meaning to those who know the song. Many songs are still sung in native tongue either newly composed or revivals of old songs. These songs are reminders to the Indian people of their old ways and rich heritage.

Dancers have always been a very important part of the life of the American Indian. Most dancers seen at Pow Wows today are social dances which might have had different meanings in earlier days. Although dance styles and content have changed, their meaning and importance has not. The outfits worn by the dancers,like the styles of clothing today evolve over time, it is not a stagnant culture, but a vibrant and changing way of life.

Pow Wow are organized by committees that work for weeks before the event.At the Pow Wow, the MC runs the events. The MC works with the Arena Director to keep the Pow Wow organized and running smoothly. These two individuals along with the committee work hard to bring the people together to dance and fellowship together in the circle.

The Pow Wow begins by the Grand Entry. This is the entry of all the people entering the arena. This originally was a parade through the town the Pow Wow was in. Even today in some Pow Wows, these parades are still held. During the Grand Entry, everyone is asked to stand as the flags are brought into the arena. The flags carried generally include the US flag, tribal flags, POW flag, and eagle staffs of various tribes present. These are usually carried by veterans. Native Americans hold the United States flag in an honored position despite the horrible treatment received from this country. The flag has a dual meaning. First it is a way to remember all of the ancestors that fought against this country. It is also the symbol of the United States which Native Americans are now a part. The flag here also reminds people of those people who have fought for this country

Following the veterans are other important guests of the Pow Wow including tribal chiefs, Princesses, elders, and Pow Wow organizers. Next in line are the men dancers. The men are followed by the women dancers. Once everyone is in the arena, the song ends and a song is sung to honor the flag and the veterans. After a prayer, the dancing resumes, usually with a few Round Dances. After the Round Dances, intertribal dancing songs are sung and everyone dances to the beat of the drum. 

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. 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 flag 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, then join in. If you are not dancing, continue to stand quietly until the song is completed.

9. While dancing at any Pow 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 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 Pow Wows 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 Pow Wows.

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.