To continue our appreciation of Native American Heritage Month, we’re going to learn about ‘powwows!’
The powwow is a staple in North American Indigenous tradition. It is a gathering of tribe members all across North America who celebrate life by dancing and singing! These social celebratory gatherings have been held for hundreds of years. The most common time for powwows was during the 19th century. Why? During this time Native Americans were being forced to fit and conform into American culture. To show they were their own people with their own beliefs, Native Americans held powwows. Those who participated sought to celebrate their traditions in a very open manner. All those who saw the events were taught what Indigenous People valued!
The modern ‘powwow’ comes from another older Indigenous People’s ceremony. These traditional events were originally healing ceremonies. These healing ceremonies were run by spiritual leaders or group elders to heal the sick or wounded. Indigenous tribes went to war with each other every once in a while. If a member of a tribe was hurt in battle, a traditional powwow could be held to help heal them. As time progressed, the activities and events that take place at powwows have changed. Instead of healing, powwows are now celebrations.
So why are powwows held? Powwows have and still do hold a lot of significance in the indigenous community. In the past they were used as meeting times for elders to make decisions. They were times where warring tribes could come together in peace. Sometimes they were where a successful hunt could be celebrated, and plenty more!
Powwows are now held for similar, but not the same, reasons. Today, public powwows are held a couple times a year by different tribes around North America. These modern powwows are social gatherings where indigenous people get together to socialize. Non-indigenous people are invited too! Dance and song are practiced frequently at these events. Each dance and song are meant to continue traditions and pass on values to the next generation. These powwows can be thought of as celebrations of indigenous history.
Many different types of dances and songs can be seen and heard at these events! A very common dance is called the “Intertribal” dance. This is a special dance because everyone at the powwow can come and participate in it! No special practice is needed to have fun with this type of dance. Some other dances that indigenous people practice are called the “double beat, round dance, buckskin, jingle, fancy shawl, smoke, and gourd.” Each dance is always accompanied by a song and drum beat too!
Powwows are held all across America, with many being held in or around The Great Planes. The largest powwow in America is called The Gathering of Nations. It is held in New Mexico during the spring every year! Indigenous tribes from as far as Canada come to take part in this powwow.