Pow Wows are cultural celebrations of pride for people of all ages. These dynamic events showcase the drums, dance, regalia, food and crafts of Indigenous Peoples and Nations all across Turtle Island, the land otherwise known as North America.
Before you attend your first Pow Wow, read these tips courtesy of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. To find a Pow Wow near you, visit canadianpowwows.ca.
Be on time
Pow Wows run on a tight schedule, so be on time to events to avoid missing important moments.
To remain respectful of the culture and ceremony, make sure to dress modestly. If the weather is hot, a t-shirt and shorts are okay.
Respect the Opening Prayer
The Grand Entry and the Opening Prayer signal the beginning of the Pow Wow. The Opening Prayer is always performed by an Elder, and the drum takes centre stage as the most important part.
Ask before taking photos
There are some times during the Pow Wow that shouldn’t be photographed, such as ceremonies and prayers. Ask permission before snapping.
Do not bring drugs or alcohol
A Pow Wow is a cultural event, not a party. Alcohol, drugs and firearms are never allowed on the premises. Drugs and alcohol are not part of the culture.
Pay attention to announcers
The Master of Ceremonies will be talking throughout the event, so make sure to listen for when to sit, when to stand, and when to join in the dance!
Know the differences between Pow Wows
Some Pow Wows are traditional ceremonies, while others are performed as a competition.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
A Pow Wow is a spiritual experience for those performing, but you may not fully understand what’s going on if you’re new to these events. If you have any questions, just ask!
Don’t forget your tobacco
Offering tobacco to an Elder or dancer before a question is a sign of tremendous respect.
Browse the local vendors
When you’re buying from the artisans, you’re supporting Indigenous families and their communities.
Kids are welcome
Pow Wows are community and family events, so they’re a great place to bring children to introduce them to Indigenous culture.
It’s regalia, not costume
A dancer’s regalia is how they dress their spirit. It’s a special piece of handmade clothing that holds spiritual significance to the dancer, and is adorned with beading that has taken many hours (or even years) to assemble. Be respectful and always ask before taking photos or touching!
Recognize different traditions
Traditions change from nation to nation. Sometimes, a local nation holds a cultural expo of their specific traditions — such as a sacred fire — or different dances that are specific to that region, like the smoke dance, switch dance or clown dance. Embrace the diversity!
The Vibrancy of Living Indigenous Culture
Indigenous Peoples invite you to witness these artistic and creative celebrations of our cultural heritage. Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy our traditional food and famous Indigenous hospitality. Watch the vibrant, spinning colours of the ceremonial regalia as you tap your feet to the beat of powerful drums and forge new friendships among the many smiling faces in the crowd.
Photo courtesy the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
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