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COMMUNITY, FAMILY and SPIRITUALITY:
GIVEAWAY

Powwows serve not only as outlets for creative and spiritual expression, but also as forums to present the public rituals of honoring and connecting. To the American Indian people, community and family are very important, and thus publicly acknowledging accomplishments or virtue is an integral part of gatherings. One ritual for honoring is called the Giveaway.

The way in which a community honors its members is an important illustration of the values and identity of that culture. The mainstream American community values independence. Members of that community are honored for their accomplishments by being singled out and awarded with a gift or presentation. (A valued longtime employee might be given a gold watch; a scientist might be awarded a Nobel prize). In contrast, the American Indian community values interdependence and someone is honored by a public ceremony in which gifts are given in their name to the people who have been important in their lives or somehow have helped them reach their accomplishment. For instance, a teenage boy graduating from high school is honored by gifts given in his name by his mother to the friends and relatives who supported him through the years. He is singled out as an honored person and those people important in his life are thanked for their involvement and years of help and support. This approach highlights the values of bonding and working together in a community. One is reminded that he or she is not alone in life, that people will help in the hard times and provide acknowledgment in the good times.

Some honorings involve the singing of a special song in memory or in honor of a person. The participants enter the circle and shake the hands of the honored individual and his or her family. As a group they complete the circle around the arena, and then the song is begun. More often, however, gifts given in an honoring include beautiful blankets or quilts, handmade dance outfits, jackets, ribbon shirts or money. Sometimes fruit or candy is used in giveaways for children. Sometimes a cow or horse will be given as a special honoring.