What is a Powwow?

An Introduction
By N. Bruno
Edited 10.22.11
Background Image: from N. Bruno's personal archives.
What is a Powwow?
A Powwow is a time for Native American
people to get together. They join in
dancing, singing, visiting friends and
making new friendships in a festive and
inclusive environment.
Social Powwows
A Social Powwow has many opportunities
for all people to participate.
There are a lot of Intertribal songs, where
anyone can join in the dancing.
Image: from N.Bruno's Personal Archives
Competition Powwows
Competition Powwows are usually
centered around people dancing to win
Image Source: http://www.rn-t.com/view/full_story/9273428/article-Running-Water-Powwow-returns-to-Ridge-Ferry-Park
People to Know
at Powwow
There are a few important people you should
know about at a powwow. They are the:
1. Emcee
2. Arena Director
3. Drum Groups
4. Dancers
5. Vendors
6. You
7. The volunteers and staff
The Emcee
The Emcee is the man (or woman) at a
special stage or table, who acts as the
The Emcee also lets you know when you
can join in, so be sure to listen to him
The Arena Director
The Arena Director is the man (or woman)
in charge of the dance arena.
This person is sometimes carrying a small
whip, he is also called a “Whip Man”.
The Drum Groups
The Drum groups are
made up of singers and
The drum groups act as the
heartbeat for the entire
powwow. They motivate the dancers, giving
them the drive to dance.
The Dancers
There are many different kinds of dancers,
but the Dancers are frequently the part
people come to see.
People come from miles away to dance at
Powwows, and other people come from just
as far to watch.
The Vendors
The Vendors come to the PowWows to sell
things that they made.
Most of these vendors
or other cool things
Many items are based on Native American
Image: from N.Bruno's personal archives
One of the most important people of the
PowWow is You. You are among the people
that come and enjoy the event.
Image: from N.Bruno's personal archives
Staff and Volunteers
Without these amazing people, the event
couldn't happen. They:
Plan the event (Location, fliers, floorplan, etc)
Make sure everyone is there that needs to be
set up
clean up
make sure the event runs smoothly from beginning to end
Please take the time to say "Thank you" to
these lovely people when you are at your next
Because we want this event to go
smoothly, there are some rules that we
ask you to follow, and some things that
you should know.
These rules are often called “PowWow
The Regalia
Please don't refer to a dancer’s regalia
as a costume!
The outfits that the dancers wear are
called Regalia. They are often handmade
and both sentimentally and ceremonially
The Chairs
Please do not sit in the chairs circling
the arena.
The chairs immediately around the arena
are usually reserved for elders, dancers,
and their families.
The Arena
Do not walk across the Arena after it has
been Blessed.
The arena is considered a sacred space.
Please respect the sacredness of the space
and refrain from walking across it.
Taking Pictures
There are special rules about taking
1. It is usually okay to take pictures of people in the dance
arena unless the Emcee says otherwise.
2. Please ask vendors, drum groups, dancers not in the
arena, and Powwow staff/volunteers before you take their
3. Please do not take photos during special dances, songs,
or ceremonies. (The Emcee will announce these.)
Have Fun
This is a group activity, and you should feel included and
enjoy yourself.
If you have questions, feel free to ask them. Please
remember to be respectful when you do.
If you are unsure about anything, please ask the Powwow
Staff or Volunteers, they will be able to answer your
And yes, remember to have fun.