Dedicated to Encourage and Assist Native American Indians To Complete Their Educations.
When in Rome, you should do as the Romans do. When at a Pow Wow you should do as they do.
Practicing good etiquette for pow wow's means more than knowing which fork to use at dinner, because the consequences of a mistake can be much worse. A breech in etiquette is a sure way to offend someone, if not the way to be removed from the arena. The best way to avoid this is to know what is expected of you.
Etiquette For Visitors and Newcomers
Everyone is Welcome.
Bring your own seating when attending a pow wow, because public is the exception rather the rule. Lawn chairs are the best way to solve this.
Do not sit on the benches around the arena. These benches are reserved for the dancers only. You may set up your chairs directly behind the benches. It is usually good courtesy to ask permission of the dancer of whose bench you are sitting behind as he/she may have family members who have planned to sit behind them.
Ask permission to take pictures of dancers. Many people are sensitive about pictures, so it is always good to be on the safe side and ask permission.
Donate money to the drum. This is done during the blanket dance, when a blanket will be laid out on the ground and a song or songs will be sung. It is customary to place a dollar bill (or more if you wish) on the blanket and dance for the rest of that song, regardless of if you are dressed or not. If you do not wish to dance, you should ask a dancer to place the money on the drum for you. The drum has probably traveled great distance to give you the beautiful songs you hear, and count on this money to help pay their expenses.
Always stand during special songs. This includes Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Veteran's Songs, Memorial Songs, Prayer Songs, or any other songs that the emcee (MC) designates. It is also customary to remove any hats that you may have on for the duration of that song.
Always listen to the emcee (MC). He will give you all of the information you need, as well as entertain you and keep you posted of all news and announcements. Any questions you have can be answered by him.
Remember that you are a guest. Have fun, ask questions and meet people.
Etiquette for Dancers
NEVER come to a pow wow intoxicated or bring any alcohol or drugs.
Be on time. Be dressed and ready to go before Grand Entry. It is a bad habit not to make Grand Entry, and may lose you point if you are contesting.
Place the blanket on the bench you want to sit on ahead of time. Nothing is worse than not having a seat to sit on after the dancing has begun. Never sit on someone else's blanket without their permission.
Dance as many dances as you can. It is in bad taste to dance only a few dances. At Formal War Dances, you will not be allowed to take a break until everyone does.
Give respect to the Head Man and Head Lady. Don't begin dancing until they do, and honor them in their Special with a dollar bill given to them in a handshake.
If you wish to honor a person, place a gift at their feet while they are dancing. If you are honored in this way, dance in place by your gift until the Arena director or another person picks it up off the ground and gives it to you. NEVER PICK IT UP YOURSELF.
If you drop some part of your regalia, don't pick it up. Dance in place beside it until the Arena director picks it up for you. You will probably be asked to give something for its return to you. All dropped articles belong to the Arena Director. When an Eagle feather is dropped, the pow wow is stopped and a ceremony is performed to pick it up. An elder is asked to pick up the feather, and he will keep the feather.
In a Two Step, it's Ladies choice. If you refuse to dance with the person who asked you, you must give her at least five or ten dollars. (The MC will usually say). The same rule applies to the Hat or Shawl dance.
Since the days before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans have had a sense of generosity that is unique among all cultures.
Since that time, this generosity has developed in the giveaway, a ceremony where a person or family or organization is honored and in return gives away many gifts to their friends and the staff of pow wows. This begins with a special song by the drum for the particular person or people honored, usually a family song that was composed for that family. The person or people and their friends slowly dance around the circle, and people in attendance who feel so moved are allowed to give the people a small gift and then join the "procession". This will usually continue for about one or two songs, when the dance will end and the people will return to their seats. The person or people honored will go to the Emcee's table and have a person speak for them, who tells about the honored party an then announces the names of the people whom they in turn would like to show their appreciation to.
When a person's name is called, he or she stands and walks around the arena to the Emcee's table and receives a gift, which is often a very nice Pendelton blanket or a food basket of some sort. It is always customary in a giveaway to always honor the head staff and the drum, and then honor those who have helped you. All in all, a giveaway can last from twenty to forty minutes..