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