Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 8, 2000 - Issue 07

Pow Wow Do's and Don'ts
by Vicki Lockard second in a series

The word pow-wow comes from the Algonquian "pauau" and means a gathering of people to celebrate an important event. With Pow wow season fast approaching, here's a list of Pow Wow Do's and Don'ts:

We are always glad to see people attend pow wows, and learn more about our cultures and ways, but sometimes not everyone acts as they should. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

The Arena:
Blessed before dancing, the arena is considered a sacred ground and should be treated with respect. Profanity and unruly behavior should not be used. Never cut across it to get to the opposite side. Treat the arena as you would treat a church. Go in the "door" and out the same way. The MC will specify who is to dance and when, and when spectators may participate. This is usually called Intertribal Dancing, but pay attention to the MC and other dancers before you enter the circle.

Photos of individual dancers should only be taken with their permission, and no commercial photography without first checking with the MC and pow wow staff. Tape recording of the drums should be done only after asking the drum group. Video recording should be only for personal use, unless by previous arrangement with the staff. Absolutely NO recording of any kind on Honor Songs, Gourd Dancing, prayers, or at any other time the MC specifies.

Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs:
Pow wows have strict rules against alcohol and drug use in the entire area of the pow wow, and most prohibit smoking near the arena.

Arts and Crafts:
At any given pow wow, you will find a wide array of Indian arts, handmade crafts, and jewelry for sale. Often this is how these vendors make a living, and sell quality goods at a reasonable price. Most will not accept checks, so it is a good idea to have cash on hand. Please use care when handling merchandise, and please watch your children!

The Regalia:
Dancers wear traditional regalia, not costumes, when they dance. Every part of a dancer's regalia is very important to him or her for various reasons. Many hours go into the intricate beadwork and detailing, and full set of regalia may take years to complete. The feathers or leather may be over 100 years old and very fragile. We ask that you never handle any part of a dancer's outfit.

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