Pow Wow Rules

Pow Wow dances are expressions of Indigenous spirituality, history and culture. They are performed by people from various Indian tribes and First Nations across North America at gatherings called Pow Wows.

There are many different types and styles of dances, each with its own meaning, origin, story and dress code, which is called regalia.

A gathering of Native American people who celebrate their culture, traditions, and spirituality through music, dance, and ceremonies is called a Pow Wow. Many Pow wows are open to the public and offer a unique opportunity to learn about and appreciate the diverse and rich heritage of the indigenous peoples of North America.

However, if you are planning to attend a pow wow for the first time, there are some rules of etiquette that you should know and follow to show respect and avoid offending anyone. Here are some of the most important pow wow rules that you should keep in mind:

Listen to the master of ceremonies (MC) or announcer. The MC is the person who guides the event and announces what is happening, who is dancing, and when you can join in. The MC will also tell you when you can take photos, when to stand or sit, and when to remove your hats.

Do not sit on the benches or chairs that are reserved for the dancers, singers, and drummers. These are usually located near the dancing circle or arena and may be marked with blankets. If you are not sure where to sit, look for signs or ask someone.

Stand up during the grand entry, flag songs, veteran’s songs, and other honor songs. These are special songs that pay tribute to the flags, veterans, elders, and other dignitaries. You should also remove your hats and remain silent during these songs.

Do not touch the dancers’ regalia or outfits. These are sacred and personal items that represent the identity, history, and spirituality of the dancers. They are not costumes or decorations. If you want to compliment a dancer on their regalia, you can do so verbally or with a gesture of appreciation.

Ask permission before taking photos or videos of anyone or anything. Some people may not want to be photographed or recorded for personal or cultural reasons. Respect their wishes and do not intrude on their privacy. Also, do not take photos or videos during prayers, gourd dances, or other ceremonies that are not primarily for the public to enjoy.

Do not walk across the dancing circle or arena. This is considered disrespectful and rude. The circle is sacred, like a church, and represents the unity and harmony of all living things. If you need to cross the circle, wait until there is a break or intermission in the dancing, and walk around the outside if you can. Don’t do anything in the arena that wouldn’t be acceptable in a church, such as letting your children run around or smoking, or littering.

Do not bring alcohol, drugs, or firearms to a pow wow. These are prohibited and will result in your removal from the event. Pow wows are family-friendly and spiritual occasions that require sobriety and respect.

Do not point with your fingers at anyone or anything. This is considered impolite by some tribes. Instead, use your chin, lips, or eyes to indicate direction or attention.

Do not be afraid to try the food options available at a pow wow. You may find some delicious and authentic dishes that reflect the diversity and creativity of Native American cuisine. However, do not waste food or take more than you can eat. If you are invited to eat at a community feast, it is rude not to participate.

Be open-minded and willing to learn from your experience. Powwows are not all the same and may vary depending on the tribe, region, and purpose of the event. Do not assume that you know everything or judge what you see or hear based on stereotypes or misconceptions. Ask questions politely if you are curious or confused about something.

By following these pow wow rules, you will be able to enjoy a memorable and respectful visit to a pow wow. You will also show your appreciation and support for the Native American people who share their culture and traditions with you.



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Contest rules and regulations for pow wow singers, also known as drum groups.

Different pow wows have different rules and regulations which they follow to govern their celebration. Some are old and have been in place for hundreds of years, while others may be fairly new and are in a constant state of modification. Here are the general rules and regulations for pow wow singers, also known as drum groups.

How the women’s Fancy Shawl Dance is Judged

The fancy shawl dance is a very aerobic, fast paced dance. Thus, this is usually considered a dance for the younger ladies and girls. However, dancers of any age may dance the fancy shawl dance, from babies to elders.

Pow Wow Rules for Dancers

Each pow wow has a set of pow wow rules for the dancers competing for prize money. These are the general pow wow rules in effect at most pow wows.

Rules for the pow wow judges