Thursday, April 3, 2014

Powwow etiquette

Spring means Powwow season is about to start up for the year. If you've never been to one, here is a list of some friendly dos and don'ts.  These apply to everyone who attends, Natives and non Natives alike. This relates to AG because they recently brought back Kaya's jingle dress of today outfit. Just in time to dance and follow the circuit. A-ho!

-Listen to the MC (master of ceramonies) for information and general advice. Do what he says.

-Stand during the pledge,Grand Entry and Exit.

-Watch with respect. We are gathering for ourselves, this is not a tourist show.

-If an eagle feather falls, be patient and listen to the MC. There are specific things that must be done before the Powwow may continue.

-If the food looks good try it. Fry bread tacos are the best powwow food.

-During the inter tribal,round dance or stomp dance. All Natives may come forward and dance. When the MC calls for all guests, that means non Natives. So get up and join the dance. This is when you may participate. Follow what everyone else is doing and listen to the MC. 

-Bring anything alocholic to the Powwow. Many of us have been affected by alcholism. Do not be stupid and sneek drinks in. It is unwanted and disrespecting.

-Point. Use your chin or tip your head in the direction of what you are indicating. Pointing is considered rude.

-Take pictures or record. Unless the MC specificly says it is allowed. Otherwise don't do it. Again this is not a tourist show. We don't take kindly to unwanted photographs.

- Sit in the front row of seats of the circle. Those are reserved for tribal elders, dancers, and specific guests.

-Cross the circle once it has been blessed. If you must, walk around it clock wise and keep outside of it.

-Touch or approach the drums. There are two, north and south.  They are holy objects and only those premited. May play them and be seated at them. Respect this space.

-Touch or in general tinker with a dancers regalia. These are not costumes. Each one is an expression of the dancers personal life and tribe. Nosy questions are not wanted.

-Participate in the dances. This is not an open jam session. You are a guest, sit and watch.

-No one wants to hear how you are "75% Cherokee,Navajo, or Lakota".  If you are Native that's fine and we will know. Trust me, we all do. If you are a faker, the above statement will lest us know that as well. Genrokees are not welcome.

-Rant about the use of animal fur or skins in regalia. Keep this to yourself. For some outfits like tradational, it is an expected part of the outfit. And every care has been taken that the animals where obtained by legal means. With its well being in mind.

-Haggle with the vendors over the price of an item. Many are hand made and often by the people sitting at the tables. That price tag equals hours and hours of shopping,assemble,work, and travel. Not to mention day jobs and taking care of family. Don't complain about the prices. If you want cheap, buy plastic fake knock offs.

-Understand that to sell something that is listed as "made by a Native American" carries weight. The artist must be tribal enrolled in one of the 595 federally recognized tribes (if you are attending a gathering in the States). Legit crafts people will provide customers with that information. Don't complain about the price or how someone on Etsy can make the item for cheaper. Or just as "authentic".

-Don't expect leather and feathers. Yes this is a Powwow, there are plenty of those in the regalia. But most of us wear jeans,t-shirts, and sneakers. We are not the exotic other.

-Expect every Native person to have jet black hair, dark skin and brown eyes. No thanks to colonization we now come in many skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors. Non are any less real then others.

-Don't (as a guest) bring pets. Unless the dog is a service animal.


  1. Thanks for this post. (Hi, it's Edaj). I was actually thinking of bringing the kiddos to a Powwow (what language is that from, by the way?) because I was recently looking at a Native American cultural center website and it had some listed.

  2. Hi Edaj. Powwow comes from a Narragansett word. So long as the Powwow is open to the public (some are closed and by invitation only) attending shouldn't be a problem. And the great thing is, if it is closed it will be listed as such. In fact those types don't even make the big Powwow circuits. Enjoy and have fun.