Thinking of joining The Nanticoke Indian Tribe Association for this year’s Pow Wow?
Your first Pow Wow will be an incredible experience – a chance to experience Native culture in the best way. Pow Wows are one of the best ways to experience Native American culture through the dancing, singing, food, and crafts.
But it may also seem overwhelming and intimidating for a first timer.
Making the most of your first Pow Wow is easier when you know what to expect.
I got you covered.
Through the years I have attended over 100 Pow Wows as a dancer, singer, and now behind the camera with PowWows.com. I can help you navigate the Do’s and Don’ts of your first Pow Wow.
So here’s your crash course, Pow Wow 101: What to Expect at Your First Pow Wow.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Pow Wow Dance Styles – Learn about Singing and Dancing
- Grand Entry – How Pow Wows start each time
- Beyond the Dancing and Singing – Food and Crafts
But first things first…
What is a Pow Wow?
Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, renewing old friendships and making new ones.
I’m from the south, and down here every town has a “festival” – like the Okra Strut, Peach Festival, and Iris Festival.
Pow Wows are Native American festivals with food, crafts, dancing, and singing. The dances, songs, and outfits have deep histories.
Understanding the basics of a Pow Wow is the first step to truly enjoying it. READ: What is a Pow Wow!
And for the Frequently Asked Questions, READ: POW WOW 101.
Pow Wow Dance Styles
At a Pow Wow you will have the chance to see a variety of dances with feathers, beads, and colorful regalia!
You’ll probably attend a contest Pow Wow – most of the larger events are now contests. The dancers are competing for large prizes.
The dancers will compete in categories based on their dance styles. So you’ll see them divided into dance styles.
Most likely you’ll see Fancy, Grass, Traditional, and Chicken for the men. And Jingle, Cloth, Buckskin, and Fancy Shawl for the women. Learn more about these styles: READ: Pow Wow Dance Styles
Every Pow Wow begins with a breathtaking procession of all participants called The Grand Entry. Think of the Grand Entry like the opening ceremony for the Olympics! Historically, the Grand Entry was a parade through the town the Pow Wow was in. Today, this ceremonial procession is still impressive as all Pow Wow participants enter the arena – this can be 100’s of dancers.
During the Grand Entry, everyone is asked to stand as flags are carried into the arena by U.S. veterans. These flags include the US Flag, tribal flags, the POW flag, and the Eagle Staffs of the Native Nations in attendance. Following the veterans are other important guests of the Pow Wow including Tribal Chiefs, Princesses, Elders, and event organizers.
Next in line are the male dancers. The men are followed by the female dancers. Once everyone is in the arena, the song ends and a song is sung to honor the flags and the veterans.
After the Grand Entry, the Pow Wow will move into intertribal dances, where everyone dances together. Or if it is a contest Pow Wow, they move into the dance categories for the competition.
You can get a feeling of the power and scale of Grand Entry in this time-lapse video!
Beyond the Dancing and Singing: Food and Crafts
Let’s eat first!
Pow Wows are a place you can experience authentic Native American food. Here are a couple suggestions to try at your Pow Wow:
Frybread is the most popular dish at Pow Wows. You can get it as an “Indian Taco” – ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, and onions. Or some people like it with sweets on it like honey or chocolate. Or just get it plain! (Want to make your own frybread? Check out our authentic (and delicious) recipe! How to Make Frybread)
2) Bison Burgers
Try a juicy burger made of lean bison meat! It’s one of my absolute favorites.
You’ll find vendors at Pow Wows selling all types of Native American crafts and goods from jewelry, beadwork, tshirts, paintings, and flutes. These items are hand-crafted and many are made using traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations. Take your time to talk with the artisans and learn how they produce their crafts. It’s fascinating! Get a Sneak Peek at Native American Crafts
Getting out of your comfort zone can be exciting, and so worth it with all you learn and experience, so why not make the Nanticoke Annual Powwow a part of your 2023 calendar…and perhaps you’ll get hooked!
By Paul Gowder, Founder, PowWows.com
PowWows.com was started in 1996 by Paul Gowder. Over the past 25 years, its mission has remained the same: to provide a place where everyone can experience and explore Native American culture.
Paul attended his first pow wow in the early 90s. As a graduate student, Paul sought to teach himself HTML, so he started building the first pages that would become PowWows.com. He took to sharing his pow wow experiences on his new site. And to his surprise, he started reaching people from various tribes, states—even countries. Paul added a community forum and a pow wow calendar to the site, and the rest is history.
Today, PowWows.com is the top destination for Native American news, culture, interviews, live videos, events, and more. PowWows.com continues to prop up Native voices and highlight issues that matter most in indigenous communities.