Powwow 101

Powwow 101

A Pow Wow is a Native American tradition that brings together many different tribes and communities. It’s a special event for Native American communities that celebrates dance, song, socializing and honors a rich heritage.

Pow Wows are amazing celebrations to experience in person, which is why all should visit one at least once in their life. But if you do, here are some things you need to know when attending a Pow Wow…

Be Respectful

Pow Wows are events that celebrate Native American tradition and demands respect from those attending. The dance arena features a circle, which is usually blessed and reserved for the dancers.  Don’t walk across it!

In general, it’s important to be respectful at all times when attending a Pow Wow.

Elders have a significant place in Native American culture. When attending Pow Wows, keep elders in high regards. If you’re healthy, it’s deemed polite to give up your seat or place in line to an elder. Also, be respectful of the dancers and singers and their regalia. It’s not polite to call their colorful native dress “costumes.” These pieces of clothing are handmade and can take many months to create. Some are even family heirlooms, having been passed down from several generations. These are not entertainers, but rather members of a Native American community, who are celebrating their cultural heritage with others.

Pow Wows are not something Natives do as a hobby.  This is a way of life and part of the culture.

Are Pow Wows Open To The Public?

Yes, Pow Wows are open to the public! People from every background are welcomed to attend the celebration of a Pow Wow. You don’t have to be Native American to attend.

Photos And Video

Many singers and dancers will allow you to take photographs with them. However, it’s best if you ask first. Don’t assume that you can record or take pictures during the Pow Wow and ask before you do it.  Listen to the Emcee for when recordings are not allowed.

Stand Up For The Grand Entry

All Pow Wows begin with a Grand Entry. This is when all dancers enter the circle and art led by the Veterans and Head Dancers. An opening prayer is also said. During this time, please stand up, refrain from talking or eating and do this at each Grand Entry.

Can I dance?

Pow Wows sometimes feature an “Inter-tribal” dance that follows the Grand Entry. This is a special dance that invites all to join in and dance together inside the arena circle. You may choose to join in despite not wearing any regalia. However, if you do decide to join the dance, always walk with the beat and be considerate of those around you. If you’re not sure of how to dance, simply watch how other women and men of your age are dancing for guidance.  Enter the arena with respect.  Conduct yourself in a reserved manner.

Children Are Welcomed

Pow Wows are family events and children are more than welcomed. Please go over Pow Wow etiquette with children old enough to understand. Have smaller children be mindful of the event, too. Children are more than welcome to join in on some of the dances. However, there are times when they shouldn’t join the arena since some dances are a competition between dancers.

Reserved Seats

The seats closest to the arena are reserved for dancers and singers, so please don’t sit in them. Also, don’t walk or run between the drum and any chairs surrounding it.  Dancers will also leave blankets on the benches or seats to reserve their place.  Don’t move the blankets or sit on them.


If you can, please donate during the blanket dance. These are funds that will benefit the group, tribe or community being honored at the Pow Wow.

Bring Your Own Seating

There might not be enough seats for the public, so you can bring a chair or a blanket to sit on.

What Not To Bring

Do not bring alcohol, drugs, and firearms to a Pow Wow.

Have Fun And Learn

Pow Wows are wonderful family events not only to enjoy but also to learn. Each tribe will have their own customs and this means not all Pow Wows are always the same.