Wikipedia

Pow Wow Etiquette: 10 Rules to Follow in and Out of the Arena

Alysa Landry
3/29/14

Follow protocol and common sense when it comes to taking photographs

Never shoot photos during prayers, gourd dances or flag songs, or when the Master of Ceremonies has prohibited it. Additional rules apply in specific circumstances, Zotigh said. For example, spectators should not take photos of dancers in regalia without first asking permission.

“This is especially true for professional photographers standing in the arena,” he said. “Often dancers are wearing something special or personally spiritual to them. A lot of

dancers don’t like their beadwork photographed because someone can see that and copy the design.”

Another rule of thumb is to never shoot photos of a dancer being initiated or receiving a plume or feather. Doing so can disrupt the spiritual process, Anthony said.

“There’s a prayer being said for that person and by taking pictures, you’re disrupting the connection,” he said.

Pow wows are colorful and high-energy events

Spectators should have fun but also keep in mind that participants are not simply entertainers. Especially during contest pow wows, dancers, singers and drummers may be performing for money.

“There are individuals who do this as a way of life,” Zotigh said. “They take it seriously because it’s their income.”

Finally, be flexible

The most important rule is to be willing to change your expectations and adapt to new situations.

(Smithsonian Flickr page)

“I think the main rule of every pow wow is that each one is different,” Zotigh said. “There is no standardization. Do as the host committee directs you to do. It may be against what you’ve been taught, but if you’re a visitor, do what they want.”

As younger participants join pow wows, some of the old rules are changing.

“The old rules are being redefined each year,” he said. “Things are changing, so be flexible with it.”

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nativewomn's picture
nativewomn
Submitted by nativewomn on
You forgot, "Don't wear a freaking headdress if you're not supposed to, and no 'woo woo' noises.

Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch
Shelley TSivia ...
Submitted by Shelley TSivia ... on
PLEEEEASE...Listen to the Arena Director and/or MC when they say (over and over and...!!) "PARENTS, PLEASE KEEP YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THE ARENA". Some of the fast and fancy dancers shouldn't have to keep watching out for some kid in tshirt and shorts who wants to dance at that same time!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
. . . and no pointing or outbursts during announcements.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
. . . and no pointing or outbursts during announcements.

Erica Violet Lee
Erica Violet Lee
Submitted by Erica Violet Lee on
Somehow, policing the bodies & clothing choices of women at pow wows simply doesn't work with the legitimate values of "be respectful" and "be flexible". Have you ever been to a pow wow? It gets hot. Wearing shorts or skirts is absolutely fine, especially considering that men are often wandering around shirtless. Shaming people for being comfortable in their own skin is so colonial.

BART's picture
BART
Submitted by BART on
why is it that women are required to wear shaws an keep their shoulders covered ?

BART's picture
BART
Submitted by BART on
why is it that women are required to wear shaws an keep their shoulders covered ?

BART's picture
BART
Submitted by BART on
why is it that women are required to wear shaws an keep their shoulders covered ?

Barry Lee's picture
Barry Lee
Submitted by Barry Lee on
I always ask the presenter/committee members what protocol they want or use. During inter-tribals I ask the visitors that if they dance, and don't know how: "Ladies follow what the ladies do and men follow what the men do, appropriate to your age." It is my attempt to keep some girls from trying to bounce around like some male fancy dancer or some guy who is my age try to follow the same fancy dancer. It has happened and it's not pretty, and I look to the arena director for help.

Juliet's picture
Juliet
Submitted by Juliet on
For my fellow non-Indians: Don't handle dancers' garments or regalia. Don't pick up loose feathers: find a pow-wow official.

Juliet's picture
Juliet
Submitted by Juliet on
Erica and Bart: The dress code is a cultural matter. Pow-wows aren't open-air secular festivals, as many of the dances have religious or spiritual significance.

tmsyr11's picture
tmsyr11
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Indian kids attending can pick up (claim) their moms or dads at the announcers booth before going home.

tmsyr11's picture
tmsyr11
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Unless you were Russell Means, you didn't have to stay standing up during the display of the US Flag. Unless you are Vietnam combat veteran, or any of our returning combat veterans of foreign wars, you've earned the right to decide to stand or sit down during the display of the US Flag.
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