I’ve been always interested in learning more about our country’s Indigenous culture. What I’ve experienced so far has grounded me in more ways than I could ever imagine. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Pow Wow please do! The events are very welcoming of all ages, powerful and emotionally moving.
As a spectator, what should you know? I came across these helpful tips from Destination Indigenous that will prepare you for the special event.
First, understanding that Pow Wows are cultural celebrations for all ages. Sometimes performances are competitions. The event includes beautiful regalia, traditional dances, and heartfelt beats of drums. They also include delicious food and often showcases Indigenous artisans.
How to dress: It’s important to be modest in your attire when attending a Pow Wow out of respect for the ceremony. Shorts and t-shirts are fine on hot summer days.
Be on time: there are many important moments so you won’t want to miss them!
Follow the Master of Ceremonies: throughout the event the MC will inform the crowd as to when to sit, stand and when it’s right time to join in the dance.
Respect the Opening Prayer: The Grand Entry and Opening Prayer (performed by an Elder) signifies the beginning of the Pow Wow. The drumming takes centre stage.
Ask Before Taking Photographs: There are some sacred moments during ceremonies and prayers that shouldn’t be photographed out of respect. I’ve been to a couple where we were reminded to put cameras away. If in doubt, don’t take any.
It’s called Regalia (not costumes): A dancer’s regalia is how they dress their spirit. It’s a special piece of handmade clothing that holds spiritual significance to the dancer, and is adorned with beading that has taken many hours (or even years) to assemble. Be respectful and always ask before taking photos or touching!
Do not expect alcoholic drinks: Remember this is a cultural event. Alcohol (or drugs) are not permitted nor are they sold on the premises.
Offering Tobacco to an Elder: is a sign of great respect.
Recognize different traditions: Traditions change from nation to nation. Sometimes, a local nation holds a cultural expo of their specific traditions — such as a sacred fire — or different dances that are specific to that region, like the smoke dance, switch dance or clown dance.
Support Indigenous Artisans: from jewellery to apparel to crafts, know that you will be buying directly from the artisans and families within their community.
Ask questions: It’s okay to be curious! In my experience, everyone has been happy to explain anything to me, and my kids, when asked. I’ve enjoyed learning about the different dances, the significance and the symbolic meanings.
There are many events including Pow Wows to attend. Link here to find out what’s coming up: www.destinationindigenous.ca