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What is a Pow-Wow?

The Circle is the spiritual center of the pow-wow and is blessed by a spiritual leader.
Native American tribes still hold pow-wows today.
Prayers, songs, and dancing occur during pow-wows.
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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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Pow-wow comes from the Narragansett word for "wise speaker." Initially, a pow-wow was the name for a man who had special abilities to cure the sick or offer advice. Such wise men were used to interpret people's dreams, help warriors find success in battle, and cure diseases.

These shamans used prayers, songs, and dancing in tribal ceremonies. During ceremonies involving the wise man, the Native Americans traded, feasted, and socialized. Sometimes different tribes came together to celebrate, playing music and dancing as they participated in festivities or religious and spiritual ceremonies. Over time, these ceremonies came to be called pow-wows.

Today, pow-wows are held in North America, where Native Americans come together to dance, sing, sell traditional Native American crafts, and socialize with others. Many people who are not Native American enjoy attending such events as well. They scour the Internet for upcoming pow-wows and travel large distances to attend.

The Circle is the spiritual center of the pow-wow and is blessed by a spiritual leader. Dancers are only allowed to enter the Circle from the east and travel in the same direction as the sun. The pow-wow singers sing in praise of the Creator; the drum serves as the heartbeat of the tribe. Together, the singers and drummers are called "the Drum."

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The ceremony begins with the Grand Entry. This serves to honor the Creator and is a way for the dancers to greet each other. After the Grand Entry, there are songs and dances that honor veterans and the ancestors. The participants hold flags during the procession. These flags typically include the U.S. flags, tribal flags, and POW flags.

After the honoring of veterans, more people come to join the dance. Pow-wow organizers, tribal chiefs, princesses, and elders are some of the people who enter the Circle. After this section of the pow-wow, a prayer is spoken and the dancing continues. When the Round Dance is announced, everyone is invited to participate.

Powwows.com is a website that contains information about upcoming pow-wows in North America. People who attend pow-wows can view authentic ceremonies, listen to storytellers, purchase Native American crafts, and view demonstrations. They can sample different kinds of Native American food and learn about the culture of various tribes.

Visitors at a pow-wow should dress comfortably and be prepared to stay late. Wear good walking shoes and a hat for protection from the sun. It's also important to bring plenty of water to avoid dehydration since most pow-wows are held outside.

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Discuss this Article

Cherokeepaws
Post 3

forgive me i am exhausted. the part i am taling about is Pow wow name only.

Cherokeepaws
Post 2

ok sorry. i asked another great Cherokee frnd who is an elder. He said you are right. I was shocked. I am sorry please for give me for that part

anon40794
Post 1

Hello

I am not sure where you got this information. Some is true and not true. I dance in pow wows, I am part Cherokee. First I do not believe you when you say Dancers dance east to west. I have been to many pow wows where tribes dance other way. Yes, mostly dance east to west. Some pow wows allow you to dance the way your ancestors danced and not *all* tribes danced the same. Another problem is the grand entry is *not* to get to know each other. That is for outside the circle or after grand entry. I think I was only at one pow wow where people talked in the circle at Grand Entry, yes kids try, but not adults. The grand entry is prayer time. Another Grand entry the flags are first in *not* brought in afterward. They are first in the circle and go around then stand in center, when drums stop, sometimes prayer before or after the flag song is played and yes we salute and do not dance. After that they are to be taken to their posts. LOL. I love this "more people come to join the dance. Pow-wow organizers, tribal chiefs, princesses, and elders are some of the people who enter the Circle" I only once did I see organizers, chiefs, princess join circle. That was at a special pow wow. first if they are native they should be in Grand Entry, and if there is a chief or princess near they do not make themselves known. I dance inter tribal pow wows. I have been to many and have been dancing for 8 years though that's been with one tribe, and it has not happened. Elders, well I hate to tell you they are in grand entry. Some carrying flgs considering a elder is well semi to old person, they are *very* wise. Everyone that is native and is dancing in pow wow, should dance in Grand Entry. Yes, after the flag song we dance another dance, not the same dance. Not every pow wow does the round dance. LOL wear walking shoes? Where are they walking to? agreed high heels not good, but sandals, flip flops and shoes are good. They are not walking a mile. Also most pow wows do not have "ceremonies" they have special dances, like hoop, grass etc.. but not have a huge ceremony. Like I said I am not sure where you got this info. I think you better check the information. And be careful how you type it. Because if you are getting info from another site does not mean it is true. Oh! yea, did not tell them to bring lawn chairs or blankets. What are they going to sit on? Please check your info before stating it for a fact Wado ( means ty in Cherokee)

a pow wow is not a *name* of a person, it was a gather of elders for a meeting. Pow wow is a term that came late! the natives hardly used pow wow name except saying for meetings.

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