The powwow is a social, family friendly, gathering. They range in size from small community gatherings at the local school gymnasium, to massive tribal fairs that attract thousands of people from all around the world. It is a time to sing, dance, socialize, make new friends, reconnect with old friends and lost friends, it is also a place for people to learn and experience a small part of our culture. The powwow is open to anyone and visitors are always welcome.
Powwows are held all over North America. The prime powwow season is between Memorial Day and Labor Day but powwows are held all year long. Many Indian families travel all summer competing in contest powwows all across the continent. There are even powwows held overseas. Most major urban areas have an Indian population and an Indian Center, they are more than happy to provide dates and locations of nearby powwows. Unfortunately I have yet to find a truly comprehensive online list of powwows, there are just too many of them.
The main focus of a powwow is song and dance. The smaller community powwows will have a handful of dancers and a singing group or two called drums. Every powwow has an emcee. The emcee’s job is to move things along in as orderly a manner as possible, and provide information for visitors and guests. They announce the type of dance and what drums are singing or next in the queue. Corny jokes and teasing of the more well-known dancers and groups is the norm. His job is to control, inform, entertain, and make announcements. The emcee is your guide. If you travel the powwow circuit you will find that there are many professional and well known emcees.
The larger powwows have dancing and singing contests and prizes are awarded to the best. The families who travel the circuit use their winnings to fund their journeys. Big powwows will have food and art vendors. Tribal fairs will include parades, rodeo, athletic and gambling competitions, cultural workshops, and even carnivals that occur outside the dance arbor. There is something for everyone.
If there is a powwow near you and I would bet real money that there is one. Go, watch us dance, hear us sing, eat some of our food, laugh and enjoy life with us, and if invited, dance with us. There is no age limit; you do not have to be Indian.
Next posts will be short explanations of what you will see and experience at a powwow.