What is a Pow Wow?

A Pow Wow is a celebration of life.

Note to photographers – Photography is prohibited at times during Grand Entry, including during the flag song, the Veterans Honour Song and whenever the Pow Wow MC declares not to take pictures. For example, when a piece of a dancer’s regalia like an eagle feather has dropped. If you want to take a picture with a dancer, just ask, most will be happy to oblige.

Note to everyone: Pow Wow regalia is very personal and dancers do not like it when spectators touch their outfits. Always ask permission.

Dance Categories & Terminology

Men’s Traditional – This dancer wears a single eagle feather bustle. This traditional dancer symbolizes a warrior in battle, hunting, o gathering. They may hold dance sticks and decorated war clubs.

Women’s Traditional – This dancer has a long dress, mostly leather with intricate and extensive beadwork and long fringes. Their dance is slower and has a regal-like quality as they represent our Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon. They carry an eagle feather fan and folded shawl over their arm.

Men’s Grassdance – Long ago men would prepare the dance grounds by flattening the grassy area with a swinging kind of rhythmic style of dance. Their outfit has long fringes that emphasize their swaying style of dance.

Women’s Jingle – This style of dance is known as the healing dance. A medicine man had a vision of this dress adorned with many jingles as a way to heal a sick relative. This dress was made and the woman danced for the sick person and the person healed.

Men’s Fancy Bustle – This dancer wears two very colourful bustles on his back and has the fastest style. Competition represents an endurance feat, flashy eye-catching moves and the ability to stop on time to trick songs.

Women’sFancy Shawl – Known as the butterfly dance, a legend exists of a young woman who lost her husband to war, fell into a spiral and curled up like a cocoon only to transform into a colourful butterfly. Her shawl is a big part of her outfit and has brilliant design colours. She displays rapid fancy footwork.

Grand Entry – A person of honour, usually a veteran, leads the dancers into the circle carrying our traditional eagle staff which represents the Indigenous Peoples flag. Next, the Canadian and American flags follow to represent all of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island (AKA North America). Everyone is asked to stand (unless you are not able) as a sign of respect for those who are being honoured and because it is the formal ceremonial part of opening a Pow Wow.

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