Wow Pow: Something Might Surprise You about the Culture of Native Americans

Wow pow is a celebration of Native Americans and a part culture of locals. To honor their ancestors, they dance, sing, and play drums together. 

It is said that the War dance Societies of the Ponca and other Southern tribes were the descent of the powwow. Not only the parade of Native Americans, but a pow wow is also the culture that they are proud of.  

Wow pow means… 
Wow pow or Pow wow is a celebration of Native Americans in which many people come to a place to dance, sing, and appreciate the traditions of their ancestors. The term wow pow originates from a curing ritual, derives from one of the Algonquian nations of the Northeast Indian tribes.

Pow wow wow pow
A group of people plays drums

During the early 1800s, some organizations of traveling medicine displayed cure-all tonics and they also used powwow to describe their products. Vendors usually hired locals to celebrate parties for the entertainment of potential customers. These people utilized the term to the circumstance and dancing, as well as to the patent medicines. 

From time to time, the term wow pow kept and Native Americans themselves added to their nomenclature to show a dancing event for audiences in an exhibition. Today, we have wow pow as a special piece of culture. 

These days, powwows transpire over a period of a few days and often have dancers, singers, artists, and even traders. They live in different tribes and they still come to the exhibition. 

Spectators (locals and non-local people) can attend and share the positive aspect of their culture with others. On the other hand, modern powwows created two broad divisions – competition events and traditional ones. 

Most competition events provide notable prize money in several dances and music categories. Traditional wow pows just give a small amount of day money to some participants. 

The first of 10, 20, or 30 dancers to register for the exhibition are welcomed. At the same time, they do not have competitive singing or dancing. In general, both groups share similar order of events and styles. 

Etiquette of the event 

In the event, you should follow the rules and etiquette. Photography rules are examples. Taking photos and protocol for the Grand Entry are common rules in photography. 

Relying on the ceremony and reservation, viewers cannot take photographs, use tapes, and record videos; unless they ask for permission. Some tribes, like Hopi and Pascua Yaqui, also prohibit photos and sketches of ceremonies. 

Other etiquettes:

  • Clothing worn by attendees is known as regalia (nor costume)
  • Drums have special rules. Drum players are allowed to touch drums only (participants cannot do it)
  • People and their regalia could not be touched without their permission

Styles and types of dances 

Styles and types of dances at a pow-wow show are derived from the Great Plains nations of the USA and Canada. The first opening and closing of a pow wow session are intertribal. 

Pow wow wow pow
Locals have numerous dance styles in a wow-pow

A drum player will sing a song and invite anyone who would like to take part. The round dance is a common dance type. Crow hop, double beat, sneak up, and sidestep are also similar dances in the session. 

  • Crow hop: a northern drum player plays a horse-stealing song  
  • Double beat, sneak up, and sidestep: these are songs of the Women’s traditional and Jingle tradition.
  • Each of the songs has a different melody and steps to follow. They are open to any dancer in any style.  

Aside from the open dances, a contest of dance for a certain style and age group is created. The top winners might receive a cash prize. In a contest competition, a dancer should have suitable regalia for the competition. A large pow-wow session probably has particular categories.

Fancy Dance

Fancy Dance (or Feather Dance) is a dance style of authentic regalia with considerable movement. This is a style danced by Northern and Southern people. Fancy dancers have different bright-colored regalia, two big bustles worn on their upper and lower back.  

Northern Traditional

Northern Traditional (or Men’s Traditional in the North) is the conventional regalia, having eagle feathers, bone hair pipe choker, a ribbon shirt, and breastplate. A single bustle is also included in the dance style. Dancers keep a dance staff and a fan made from the eagle wing. Movements come from a warrior scouting before a battlefield.    

Buckskin and cloth

This is a traditional dance of the southern tribes. The name dance shows the material category of making the dress. Although the regalia have the same as the Northern traditional dance, buckskin and cloth dancers have two separate groups. Furthermore, the dance steps also require similar rules in both regalia categories.

Jingle Dress

This is the healing dance, in which the players take skirts on with several small tin cones. The melody is made by small tin cones and light footwork on the ground. 

Grass Dance

This is a fancy and beautiful style because the dancer performs circles around and flows like the grass in the wind. Movements are more variable and modern than the traditional ones. However, those are less ostentatious than the conventional movements.  

Pow wow wow pow
Each tribe has their dance styles

Dances in a wow pow exhibition always play an important role in Native American life. Most new dances seen at powwows are social ones which might get a different meaning. Though the styles and concepts have been changed today, the meaning and roles have been kept. The outfits of the dancers, for example, have a high-spirited way of life. 

Drumming in music 

The most amazing thing in wow-pow music is the drum. Good drums help dancers realize how to move along with the song pretty well. Without drum groups, music is futile. In other words, we do not have a powwow!

There are many drums at a wow-pow session, especially at a weekend show or several weeks. 

Each pow wow feature keeps a drum with high respect. Family, relatives, extended family, neighbors, and friends are in a large drum group. Then, each group is named after families, geographic locations, and tribes. The name is so diverse. 

Plenty of groups displays the name on different things such as caps, vehicles, chairs, and jackets. In general, men use the drum. Women sit behind men and sing harmonies. Men would sing high harmonies as well. 

In addition to drums, the drum group also brings some supplies such as rawhide headed, a cloth bag for padded drum sticks, chairs for sitting, and the drum stand. The drum head, microphone stands, PA box, eagle feathers, fur, flags, and a public address system are essential equipment for an exhibition.

Final Words

These days, powwows are organized by committees and working for several weeks before the parade. Similar gatherings prevailed in Native American communities before the European settlement. 

Dances usually occurred in one of four circumstances: religious ceremonies, homecoming celebrations, successful war honor parties, reaffirmed alliances celebrations, and warrior society sponsors.   



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