Revitalizing Native Cultures
People cheeringIs it appropriate for young people to 'whoop it up' at
an Indian pow wow?

What's the Proper Protocol for Attending a Pow Wow?

At most pow wows — and even some ceremonial dances in the Southwest — members of other tribes and whites are welcome. But there are some rules. There is a sense of etiquette that should prevail.

The overall rule is that you're a guest and you should extend common courtesies. Other rules include:

  • Be on time. The organizers went to a lot of trouble to set up the schedule.

  • Wear appropriate clothing. If you're going to dance, wear dance clothing. If you're attending a ceremony, wear respectful clothing.

  • At a pow wow, arena benches are reserved for dancers. Blankets are used to reserve space on the benches, so don't sit on someone else's blanket.

  • Listen to the Master of Ceremonies and don't interrupt.

  • If you are dancing, respect the position of Head Man and Head Woman dancers. They are there to start each song, so wait for them.

  • Dance as long and as hard as you can. When not dancing be quiet and show respect.

  • Items of religious significance should be worn or handled only by those who are qualified to do so.

  • No alcohol or drugs are allowed at pow wows or ceremonial dances.

  • Ask before taking a picture or recording a dance on video.

In general, if you're unsure whether or not your action is respectful to the tradition, ask.

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