Pow Wow Dances
Pow Wow Dances
The Pow Wow dance is an expression of Indigenous spirit, history and culture. These are performed by men, women and children of various Indian tribes and First Nations throughout North America at Powwow events. Pow Wow dances have developed over time and reflect Aboriginal diversity and creativity. There are many forms and styles of dance, each with its own meaning, origin, story and style.
Pow Wow dances are usually divided by age and gender. They may include:
Men’s Traditional Dance: This dance is based on the movements of warriors and hunters. It reflects the strength, agility and courage of the dancers. The dancers wear feather bustles, headdresses, bells, beads and paint. They carry shields, spears, fans, and other items. They dance in a manner of dignity and pride, often telling a story through gestures.
Women’s traditional dance: This dance is also known as buckskin dance or cloth dance. It shows respect for those who preserve and sustain culture. The dancers wear long dresses of buckskin or cloth, decorated with beadwork and shells, and Moccasins, leggings, shawls and jewelry. They carry fans or feathers and dance gracefully and delicately.
Men’s Fancy Dance: This dance is a modern fast dance that originated in the 20th century. It showcases the athletic ability, skill and creativity of the dancers. The dancers wear colorful outfits with two large feather bustles on their backs and shoulders. They wear roach hair, ribbons, bells and beadwork. They carry fans or whistles and dance energetically through spins, jumps and kicks.
Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance: This dance is also a modern form of fast dance that originated in the 20th century. It reflects the beauty, grace and vibrancy of the dancers. The dancers wear bright dresses and matching leggings and moccasins. They also wear a shawl, which they fan like a butterfly dancing on its wings. They carry fans and dance with fluid movements and incredible footwork.
Men’s Grass Dance: This dance is an old and sacred dance from the Northern Plains States. It was done by warriors to level the grass before setting up camp or performing rituals. It also symbolizes the relationship between humans and nature. The dancers wear fringed clothing that resembles the grass moving. They wear roach hair, watches, beads and paint. They carry fans or hoops and dance in rhythms that make their surroundings appear to wave in the wind like grass.
Women’s Jingle Dress Dance: This dance is a healing dance that originated in the 1900s from the Ojibwe Nation. Inspired by a dream, the girl wears a dress often made of a shiny material that made jingling sounds as she danced. These clothes were said to have healing powers for the sick and suffering. The dancers wear outfits decorated with hundreds of metal cones made of tobacco can lids. They wear feather headdresses, moccasins, leggings and beadwork. They carry fans or feathers and dance with light steps that make their cones jingle.
Tiny Tot Dances: These are pow wow dances performed by young children learning the dances of their Elders. Tiny Tots include children from infants to age six.
These are some examples of the many competition Pow Wow Dances today. There are other dances that are ritualistic in nature, and associated with a particular tribe or region, such as the Eagle dance, the Chicken dance, Hoop dances and the Ghost dance.
Others are purely social in nature. Social dances include the Round Dance and Intertribal dances. They include all ages and genders. The purpose of the Intertribal is to foster bringing people from different tribes and cultures together to heal, to honor, and to celebrate life.The Emcee will often invite powwow visitors to join the dance in the arena during these dances.
Learn more about the different pow wow dance styles and social dances, honor dances, war dances, and more.
Yellowstone National Park is the most popular national park in the United States. While Yellowstone is known primarily for its many hot springs and geysers, spectacular scenery, and wildlife, there are many other interesting things to see and do in the area. One of them is to attend an authentic Native American powwow.
Some say the modern day Pow Wow competition dance known as the Ladies Fancy Shawl Dance has its roots in a ceremonial dance called the Butterfly Dance. Here is a Cherokee account of how that dance came to be.
At Crow Fair in Montana, I was told another story about the Fancy Shawl Dance. While the Crow people also equate this dance form as an expression of re-emergence and renewal of life forces, they have a very different explanation of how it began. Their version goes like this: