Contemporary Pow Wow
Today, Pow Wows are very much a part of the lives of modern Native Americans. They bring many tribes together in a social and festive atmosphere. An estimated 90 percent of Native Americans attend Pow Wows. They can be found in every state of the union, including Hawaii. Beginning in May each year, thousands of Indians and visitors travel the “powwow circuit,” a series of summer events that originated more than fifty years ago. They are held on Indian reservations, in civic centers, fairgrounds, public parks and gymnasiums across the country. Many dancers and singers earn their entire livelihood during a season on the circuit. Talented Native American artists and food concessionaires make their living through Pow Wows, and others receive fees as arena directors or announcers.
Symbols & Ceremonies
There has been a resurgence of interest in Pow Wows among non-Indians. Many non-Indians believe that Native Americans have a better relationship with our beleaguered earth. They are attracted to Indian spirituality and practices of living more harmoniously with nature and each other. Pow Wow, as an expression of culture, is an opportunity for non-Indians to observe, learn and celebrate. In modern Pow Wows, most religious ceremonies no longer play a central part, they are often conducted in the privacy of family gatherings; but blessing ceremonies, honoring ceremonies and ceremonies for dropped eagle feathers remain today. The eagle feather is sacred to most Native Americans. When an eagle feather accidentally falls from a dancer’s outfit, the Pow Wow stops. Veteran dancers must perform a special ceremony before the Pow Wow can continue. Different tribes have different customs relating to how the dance ceremony is performed. Regardless of the tradition, spectators should stand, remove caps or hats, and listen carefully to the announcer’s instructions. The circle is a sacred symbol to Indian cultures. It means wholeness: there is no beginning, no end. At a Pow Wow, dancers are in the center of a circle. The audience forms a circle around them, bringing the people closer together, closer to their community, and their culture. Historically, singing and dancing have always been an integral focus at Pow Wows. Competitive singing and dancing for prize money is a fairly recent development. Only registered participants can participate in the dancing contest, but when an “inter-tribal” dance is announced, everyone, including visitors, can take part. We encourage you to join us in dance and celebration.