Everything About Native American Pow Wows

Happy New Years to you all! As 2019 is upon us and in one short week I will be another year older, I’ve been thinking more and more about the heritage we carry with us. Sometimes, it’s subtle – like the way we prepare food – and sometimes our heritage comes to the forefront, mostly during large, joyful celebrations.

Personally and most recently for my family, this meant enjoying the Holidays with lots of Tamales, Menudo, and then welcoming the New Year with Chicken and Poblano Soup.

That gave me an idea. I want to introduce you the most joyous, extraordinary celebration of Native American traditions and heritage – Native American pow wows!

What Is a Pow Wow?

In short, a (modern) Native American pow wow is a gathering of people that serves to celebrate and appreciate all the Native American traditions, culture, and heritage.

A pow wow includes formal dancing, music, singing, feasting, and an all-around good time – but don’t confuse it with a party. What pow wows represent, what they truly are, is a way to keep the Native American traditions and culture alive – a way to enjoy and appreciate them. Some pow wows are private, while others are open to the public. So, if you ever have a chance to attend one, don’t miss out – it’s an amazing experience!

Native American Pow Wow

Native American tribes had their own celebrations after successful hunts, food gathering, name-giving celebrations, etc. One of them evolved into the modern pow wow.

Some believe that the word pow wow actually comes from the old word for a medicine man, Pau Wau, in the language of the Algonquian people.

Throughout the 19th century, at a time of great troubles for the Native Americans, pow wows were common in the Great Plains. During that time, pow wow served as a celebration of rich Native American culture. Many tribes would gather to dance, perform music, and continue their traditions. What was most emphasized was generosity and the exchange of gifts, so the many tribes had another purpose – affirming friendship among people.

As time went by, the old pow wows grew into the modern pow wow – a great festivity where Native American heritage is honored, and almost every aspect of the culture appreciated with love and care.  

Native American Pow Wow Music

Music is extremely important for every pow wow. In fact, everything that happens during the celebration revolves around music! There’s no pow wow without the beat of the drum and the singers’ enchanting voices.

The drums are hand-made and the musicians, all part of a group sometimes called simply Drums, are often at the very center of the dance area. That way, the drums reverberate through the whole arena, and not only does it provide accompaniment to the dancers, but the vibrations also radiate so that the music you hear on pow wows reaches deep inside you.

Native American Pow Wow Music

Native American Pow Wow Dancing

When it comes to dancing, pow wows are spectacular! Dancers do their regalia and move around the main circle, dancing to the beats of the drum, displaying their own style of dance. There are several styles, some for men, and others for women, and each of them may be a part of a dancing contest.

Some of the men’s styles are Grass dance, Fancy dance, Traditional dance (Southern and Northern).

Women’s dance styles you can find on pow wows are Fancy Shawl, Traditional, Buckskin or Cloth.

The most wonderful of all is the intertribal dance. That is the moment when everyone, every single tribe is invited to dance inside the circle while the drum sings its song. As a spectator, you may be invited to dance and celebrate Native American culture. If you don’t know what to do, don’t be scared! Just look at what others are doing, and be considerate of the people around you.

When Is the Next Native American Pow Wow?

There’s no pow wow season – they happen all year round! They usually last one whole weekend, so if you want to visit – plan your trip. Here are some pow wow happenings in January 2019:

  • You can attend the 19th Annual Morning Star Pow Wow on January 1st in Bel Air, Maryland.
  • The 3rd Annual Winter Pow Wow starts on January 26th, and ends January 27th, in Red Cliff, Wisconsin.
  • If you’re up for a longer trip, you can attend the Dakota Nation Winter Fest on January 31st in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.

This next pow wow isn’t in January, but I simply have to tell you about it!

  • The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow is the largest pow wow in the States, where more than 150000 spectators, and more than 3500 dancers, gather to enjoy and celebrate Native American cultures.

It’s an unforgettable experience, crackling with energy, love, with appreciation, and after it’s done, I’m sure you’ll be wondering how come the time flew by so quickly! The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow happens on April 25-26, rain or shine, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Native American Pow Wow in Arizona

  • Shonto New Years Pow Wow lasts from December 30 to December 31 in Shonto, Arizona. This gathering is family friendly, so if you want your little ones to get to know Native American culture, this pow wow is a perfect opportunity.
  • The Apache Gold Casino will be hosting a pow wow on March 2-3 in San Carlos, Arizona. There will be hundreds of dancers, and music that you can’t help but fall in love with!
  • Another family-friendly pow wow will be held on March 23. The 15th Annual Westwood High School Social Pow Wow is yet another opportunity for you to get to know dances, music, and arts and crafts specific to Native American culture.
  • The 37th Annual Wa:k Pow Wow is scheduled for March 16-17 in Tuscon, Arizona. It’s Tuscon’s largest pow wow!

I hope this introduced you to the magic of pow wows! If you can’t attend one during 2019, but still want a small part of Native American culture to be close to your skin, check out some of the Native American jewelry in our store. Every piece is designed by Native American designers, and their modern look is imbued with rich tradition and heritage.


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