10 Things You Didn't Know About Pow Wows
The word pow wow probably makes you imagine headdresses, teepees, dancing, and drumming. While it’s true that most pow wows are famous for those things, there’s a lot more to a pow wow than just those things alone.
Before you attend another pow wow read this list of 10 things that we’re betting you didn’t know. Oh, and if you haven’t wanted to see a pow wow then I guarantee you will once you finish this list.
10 Things you didn’t know…
1. Pow wows have deep historical roots, but did you know that the pow wow tradition goes all the way back to the early 19th Century, where huge gatherings of tribes would travel to meet and celebrate?
2. Speaking of gathering, did you know that the Mi’kmaq word for powwow is “Mawiomi?” It means “gathering” which fits because a pow wow is exactly that: a time and place for people to dance, pray, eat, laugh, and just enjoy being together.
3. One of the most important things in the life of an Aboriginal Canadian is the drum, but not everyone knows its symbolism. During a pow wow drumming is meant to represent the heartbeat of Mother Earth, allowing everyone at the pow wow to feel and hear it.
4. When you’re at a pow wow, it’s tempting to take pictures of people and performers. What you might not know, however, is that some dancers have religious beliefs that prohibit them from being photographed. Before you take any pictures, politely ask permission and remember not to touch a dancer or drummer’s hair. Courtesy is always appreciated!
5. The jingle dress is also called a prayer dress. There are different origin stories among different tribes about this type of dress. The story that reoccurs the most is one where the daughter of a Medicine man is sick. The Medicine man receives a vision that tells him to create a type of dress that can heal her. When she dances while wearing the dress at a gathering, it cures her illness. This is why the dress is honored at pow wows across North America.
6. Although a pow wow definitely has the exciting and fun atmosphere of a party, alcohol and drugs are not permitted in or around the pow wow grounds. We want you to enjoy the pow wow while respecting its sacred nature.
7. Did you know flags play an important role at pow wows? As you might expect, the Canadian and American flags are displayed. What you may not know is that flags from many other different tribes around North America, especially those in attendance, will be shown.
8. Each pow wow begins with a ceremony called the Grand Entry. The head male and female dancers will usually lead this procession of dancers into the dance area. During the Grand Entry everyone is asked to stand, if possible, out of respect and sincerity.
9. All styles of dance and regalia have a story or a meaning. Don’t hesitate to ask an elder or dancer about what it represents and why, helping people learn about our culture helps us welcome the world.
10. At every pow wow, feasting is an integral part of the celebration. Usually, the host community provides one or more feasts daily for not just the drummers, singers and dancers , but also for everyone to enjoy traditional delicacies.
11. The most important thing to know about pow wows is that everyone is welcome!
The Membertou Mawiomi (pow wow) is September 10-13, 2015.
We can’t wait to see you there!