Native American Pow Wow

In general most societies embrace chances to celebrate.  Celebrations can be for many different reasons.  One can hold gatherings for life events like marriages, or perhaps to commemorate important historical events.  If one is looking for a celebration of both a unique spiritual and cultural sense, one need look no further than a Native American pow wow.

The word “pow wow” itself comes from the Narragansett word “powwaw”, which means “spiritual leader.”  Although pow wows were originally just meant for Native American tribes themselves, the contemporary Native American pow wow celebrates Native American traditions but are open to everyone.  The length of a pow wow can vary from just a day, to as long as a week.  In the Northeastern part of the United States, for example, pow wows are typically held over the course of a weekend.

A Native American pow wow is not only a chance to celebrate Native American cultural traditions of the tribe hosting the event, it is also a wonderful way for different cultures to come together as friends.  For example, the Wampanoag tribe of Mashpee, Massachusetts hold an annual Corn Planting Moon pow wow, in which opening ceremonies include having both dancers and visitors join hands in a circle.

Pow wows are also an opportunity for Native American dancers to display their costumes, or regalia, while dancing.  Dancing itself comes with rules of etiquette, which include listening to Master of Ceremonies, and dancing for as long as possible, since Native American dancing is equivalent to a form of spiritual prayer.  Some pow wows award prizes to dancers.  Additionally, each dancer’s costume is personalized with various types of decorations, which may sometimes also be awarded prizes.

Vendors may also be present at pow wows.  What these vendors sell might be as small as decorative beads, to as large as different types of statues – it all really depends on the locations, since pow wows are held in lots of different settings, from arenas to small meeting halls.  No matter the location, pow wows are excellent ways to learn about the Native American culture.

Joseph Paige 2006

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