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For Native Americans, Summer Is The Peak Time For Powwows
Summer is the peak of the powwow season even though Native American powwows occur year round. I have attended countless powwows having been on the committee side of planning a powwow, and as a participating vendor. Being part of the powwow circuit as a vendor, dancer, head staff or drummer is like belonging to a large family. As a vendor I always look forward to seeing other arts and crafts vendors and enjoy catching up with the latest gossip, powwow news and family history. And let’s not forget about fry bread. Every powwow has at least one fry bread booth. This is the most popular food at a powwow, yet it's not really an indigenous food at all! But, that’s another story.
What is a powwow? A powwow is a Native American gathering, a social event where both native and non-native people gather together for drumming, dancing, singing, arts and crafts, seeing old friends and making new friends. Powwow time is a social event that includes honorings, giveaways, memorials, fund raising, games, special dance exhibitions and social dances, like the Potato Dance, Round Dance or the Switch Dance.
Powwows are a time to continue and preserve Native traditions and to dance to the heartbeat of the drum. Powwows are either competition (dancers compete in several categories for prize money) or traditional (no competition dancing). Many competition powwows have big “purses,” referring to the prize money for the winners in each category. Some dancers go from powwow to powwow hoping to win in their category but the majority of the dancers dance because this is what they love and they dance for the people.
Powwows provide an exciting and informative environment for non-native people to experience American Indian culture first-hand. The main highlight of any powwow are the dancers. The variety of colors and styles of the dance outfits are spectacular to watch in the dance arena. My favorite component of the dance regalia is the beautiful bead work. Photographing the dancers in the arena is usually acceptable, as dancers are used to being photographed and filmed while dancing. However, if a dancer is not dancing, and is outside of the arena, never point your camera without asking permission first! Most are happy to be photographed and appreciate being asked.
There are many dance categories, divided by sex, dance style and age. Male dance styles include Traditional, Fancy, Grass and sometimes Chicken and Hoop. Female dance styles include Traditional, Fancy Shawl and Jingle. Both male and female dance styles are also broken down by age category. All these categories make for a visually exciting and stimulating experience unlike anything else.
For a first time visitor attending a powwow the experience can be a bit daunting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about protocol. The main thing is to have a good time. If you haven’t been to a powwow, find one and join in on the fun!
For more information on powwows, visit Powwow Power.
More than 100,000 spectators, artists, and Native American dancers are converging on Albuquerque as part of North America's...