Never been to a Pow Wow? You might be wondering what a Pow Wow is exactly. The simplest explanation is that it is a gathering to celebrate life. There is drumming, singing, and dancing, with an emcee keeping the crowd informed and entertained and an arena director making sure all is in order in the dance arena. Most of the dancers wear regalia, and their regalia is made to represent specific kinds of dances. A person’s regalia is sacred and highly personal, often including various symbols that are meaningful to the individual’s life. During the Pow Wow, certain dances are reserved for dancers of specific dance categories. However, there are frequently dances called “inter-tribals” and everyone, with or without regalia, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, is welcome to dance! Simply listen to the emcee to know what is going on.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we have provided you with some links that contain information about the history of Pow Wows, about Pow Wow etiquette, and about common elements that one will find at a Pow Wow. Enjoy!
A Primer on the First Nation Pow Wow: This article has some background history about where and when Pow Wows originated, a discussion of how they persisted despite being banned, and some other general information about Pow Wows.
Pow Wow Inquisition: Part of Canada’s Shame: This article discusses the Indian Act in Canada and its ban on Pow Wows and other Indigenous traditions.
First Nation Pow Wow Protocol: This article has a simple list of do’s and don’ts for Pow Wow attendees.
First Nation Pow Wow Dances: This article provides a description of some common elements of Pow Wows as well as explanations of some of the dances.
Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow Wow: This website is about the Pow Wow held in the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake every July. At the bottom of the home page, there is a video with interviews and footage from the Pow Wow.