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."
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.