Native Pow Wow
I attended a native pow wow last night and wanted to share my experience. Native American pow wow music is so powerful to me. It’s music from the soul and it speaks to mine. I connect to it on a very deep level, it is soothing. I will tell you that it is not for everyone (it can be quite loud and piercing) but to me, it’s music to my ears 🙂 I even listen to it before I go to bed as a way to relax… A Native pow wow is a ceremony filled with singing, drumming and dancing. It is a celebration to renew old friendships and ties and to make new ones, to come together to sing and dance, to preserve the native heritage. Pow wows can be small or big, with one or more drums and adorned dancers (adorned with native american pow wow regalia) or just regular folks dancing. Regalia can be elaborate, such as this one below (I saw a man in very similar regalia last night). And please it is called regalia or attire not a costume! Dancers are not playing dress up, they are dressing in the way of their ancestors, in a way that reflects the culture and traditions. The Pow Wow typically begins with the Grand Entry, i.e. the people (typically the singers and dancers as well as important guests as well as Elders or organizers of the event) entering the room. Flags are typically carried while people in the crowd stand, acknowledging those coming in. The head woman and man dancers come in followed by the men dancers and then the women dancers. A prayer is said and then the dancing resumes!
Men and women can be adorned and shine in colors. It is certainly a pretty sight to see dancers dancing freely to the beat of the drum with flashes of color and fabric swirling around. You will also often hear bells jiggling, bells attached to the women’s dress. Appropriately it is named a jingle dress and can be quite beautiful. And there is no sound like the sound of jingle dresses jingling all at once 🙂 See the picture below.
People dance to the beat of the drum, being beaten by men holding long drum sticks. They all sit in a circle around the drum while beating it and singing. Native American pow wow music is strong, singers are respected. That kind of singing takes a toll on one’s voice but they keep going. The pow wow I went to last night, had three drums. One reason could be that each drum had a different tribe or nation or different drum group sitting around it, singing their own songs in their native language. They sing about their heritage, their culture, their past, their way of life. A song is a prayer; it might be in a language you do not understand but let your heart hear it. Be aware that some dances will be closed to the general public, i.e. not everyone can dance. Be respectful of the people around you, of the singers and different tribes around you. Ask if you are unsure. And if an honor song is played, stand up and remain silent. For more info on Pow wow etiquette, see this page
Pow wows are a celebration of what was, what is and what will be. it is a celebration of the Creator (beating the drum connects the physical world with the spiritual world), of life, of all our relations. Some who have a gift will see the spirits joining the drum circle, looking over the singers, as without the singers, there is no dancing. The beating of the drum is steady, providing a good rhythm for the dancers, young and old alike. I have to say that I am not a dancer at all. But dancing to Pow wow music, well it comes naturally. I just have to let my body flow with the music. And it helps burn off the good food that is shared at pow wows (bannock for sure!) 😉
Below is an example of native american pow wow music. As I said, it is not for everyone. And different tribes and nations will sing and celebrate differently. For example, in British Columbia, there is west coast style and east coast/prairie style singing and pow wows. The music below would be considered east coast/prairie style (more specifically Cree). The Co-Ed song which I previously posted would be considered west coast style. I hope you enjoy!
For Great Pow Wow footwear, including moccasins, check out this page
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