A Native American Powwow

By Carole

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The word “powwow” is from the Narragansett Eastern Algonquin language (the Algonquin tribes historically lived along the east coast of the U.S., along the St. Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes). It came to mean any gathering of Native peoples. Powwows are Native American peoples’ ways of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Powwows are cultural events; social gatherings that many Native American Indian communities attend.

The music is centered on the drum, which is said to be the heartbeat brought from Earth Mother to the powwow for all to feel and hear. Singing naturally goes with the drum beat. There are five kinds of songs at most powwows: 1) inter-tribals (where all people are invited to dance); 2) contest dancing (where dancers are in different categories); 3) honor songs (which recognize a special person); 4) dropped eagle feather (when an eagle feather falls off a dancer’s traditional dress); and 5) the give-away (when gifts are given to remember a special event).powwow - drum

Powwows are famous not only for their music and singing but also for their dance contests. There are six categories: for men – traditional, grass and fancy; for women – traditional, jingle dress and fancy shawl. Both style of dress and dance show the dancer’s category. Dancing is a way to show cultural pride.

Hundreds of powwows are held each year in many U.S. states. They usually begin in early spring and continue through the summer and early fall.

You can probably search online for a schedule and find one if you plan on traveling around the country. And for more information about powwows, check the internet under “What is a powwow” and especially for the Dance for Mother Earth. This year will be Ann Arbor’s 45th annual celebration, which will be held at Skyline High School on April 1st and 2nd, 2017. Go enjoy the music, dancing, food and beautiful crafts! Find out more about the Powwow at http://powwow.umich.edu/home.