Entering an unfamiliar world can be scary, but it is often the best way to learn. While customs and protocols vary from nation to nation, following a few simple rules for Pow wow can set your mind at ease and let you enjoy the day.
Dress Modestly—It is not appropriate to wear swimsuits, extremely short skirts or shorts or halter tops. Do not wear T-shirts or other items of clothing with profanity or inappropriate slogans.
Always listen to the MC— The MC will tell you when you can take photo’s, when you can dance, and which protocols to follow while doing so.
Stand up during the Grand Entry— Unless you are physically unable to stand, you are expected to show respect for the dancers and rise as they enter the arena.
Do not sit in the chairs nearest the dancing circle—These chairs are usually reserved for dancers, singers and drummers. Bring a blanket, cushion or lawn chair if you can.
Never touch the drum unless invited—Drum protocols vary from family to family, and nation to nation. Drums are often considered living entities with their own energy and must be respected.
Pow wow grounds are considered sacred spaces—A blessing is performed in the beginning and at the end to invite the creator into the space. Your actions should show respect for this relationship. Refrain from negative thoughts or actions.
Do not bring alcohol, drugs, or non-ceremonial tobacco into the Pow wow space—Pow wows are celebrations of culture. Smoking, or chewing tobacco is considered disrespectful.
Follow protocol and common sense when taking photographs—Never shoot photos during prayers, or flag songs, or when the MC has prohibited it. Also a dancers Regalia is often unique, personal and part of their story, do not take any pictures without their permission.
Pow wow’s are colourful and high energy events—Spectators should have fun but also keep in mind that participants are not simply entertainers. Especially during contest pow wows, dancers, singers and drummers may be performing for money. This is an income for some families.
Finally, be flexible—Come to the pow wow space with limited expectations. Each pow wow is different and standards are evolving. The MC often has to adapt to changing circumstances and will keep you informed, regardless of your prior experiences, do what they tell you and your experience will be a great one.