Although pow wows may differ, depending on the location or type, and the exact order may be different, the Grand Entry usually starts off the festivities.
Here is the usual order at Northern Pow Wows.
First the eagle staff is carried into the circle, followed by the American, Canadian, state and tribal flags, followed by the title holders from tribal pageants. Other invited dignitaries are next, followed by the men: traditional dancers first, then grass dancers and fancy dancers.
Women come next, first traditional dancers, then fancy shawl dancers and jingle dress dancers. Next are the junior boys, then girls, in the same order as the adults. The last to enter are the little boys, traditional and fancy dancers, and the little girls, traditional and fancy dancers.
The dancers dance sunwise (clockwise) around the dance arbor, showing the audience that they are ready to begin, showing off their outfits and dance steps, letting those who watch know who they are and what they can do. What they are wearing is commonly called dance regalia, or a dance outfit.
Note: the term ‘costume’ is seen by many as a derogatory term. Many pow wow dancers feel a costume is something you wear on Halloween or when you are play acting.
Many dancers have put hundreds of hours into their regalia, or parts or all of it may have been handed down over several generations. To the dancer it is a sacred item, and the word costume denigrates its importance.
When the Grand Entry song ends, there is a Flag Song, which honors the veterans, and is the equivalent of a national anthem. Unless you are disabled and can’t stand, you should stand during the Flag Song, as a sign of respect.
After the Flag Song, often there is an invocation, blessing the gathering. After that, the eagle staff (always positioned above the American Flag to signify the first nation) is tied to the pole in the center of the dance arbor or brought to the announcer’s stand.
A welcome is extended and then there may be a few words by various dignitaries. When this portion of the ceremony is completed, the dancing can begin.