PowWow Home Page   The Drum
A Significant Gathering   The Songs
The Grand Entry   The Dances
Family, Community & Spirit   The Regalia

A SIGNIFICANT GATHERING

The PowWow is an American Indian gathering focusing on dance, song and family celebration. Traditionally, it is a celebration presented by one tribe or band to welcome and honor others. PowWows are usually three day weekend events and people may travel great distances to attend. The main PowWow season is summer (traditionally beginning with a PowWow in March in Denver), however there has been a resurgence of PowWows in the last decade, making it possible to attend a Powwow every weekend year round in North America. All people (including non-Indian people) are welcome at PowWows and are encouraged to attend one, as experiencing a PowWow can be a valuable and fascinating cultural experience for non-Indian people unfamiliar with our neighbors, the Indian people.

There are several different kinds of PowWows, though the two most common are known as traditional and competition PowWows, respectively. In traditional Powwows everyone who participates in the dance or singing programs is awarded day money. While there is still a degree of competition in the dancing events, it is somewhat informal and ceremonies such as honorings, giveaways, "first" dances and adoptions are also important activities of the day. A competition PowWow, on the other hand, has significant prize money available for the dancers, depending upon the resources available to the individual host tribe. While everyone can still compete and dance, only the dancers who place near the top of the competition receive prize money. Drum groups also compete for prize money.

The PowWow is organized by the PowWow committee, a dedicated group of members of the host tribe. Their work involves the bringing together of the drums, dancers, entertainment, food, crafts booths, and the administration of the PowWow grounds (parking, registration, camping, sanitation, sound system, and security). Once the PowWow begins, it is run by the Master of Ceremonies (MC) and Arena Directors. Different MCs have different styles and the choice of an MC greatly influences the feel of the PowWow. The MCs provide a running commentary of events, announcements, and most importantly background information about the dances, rituals and spirit of the PowWow. Instilling appropriate humor into the proceedings is also the work of the MC. The Arena Directors keep the event moving and manage the flow of activity in the arena. At any one time, they may be telling the drums who will play next and what kind of song to have ready, seeing to the accommodations of the judges, or organizing the dancers. It is an extremely active and important job.

Judges are changed for each category and are chosen for their knowledge of the dance style and drum. They judge dancers on their style and form, regalia and ability to stay in time with the drum and stop on the final beat.


Working in close collaboration with Native American scholars and tribal leaders, Senior Producer Barbara Wiener and the production team chronicled a major PowWow held in Minnesota in the summer of 1994, The Mdewankanton Dakota Community PowWow in Shakopee. Dakota anthropologist and member of the Dakota community, Barbara Feezor Stewart, clarified another aim of this project: "This society is filled with inaccurate images of American Indians, and the images are easily manipulated. So being able to show some sort of pride in our culture and heritage at a PowWow is very important for the mental health of Indian people." It is in that spirit that Wacipi - PowWow hopes to guide non-Indian people toward understanding and appreciation of varied aspects of Native American culture.

For further information about this gathering and others like it check out [further information about PowWows in this area]