Don’t Sit in That Elder’s Chair!

Don’t Sit in That Elder’s Chair! 8 Funny Unwritten Pow Wow Rules

Vincent Schilling

At every pow wow there is a list of unwritten rules that just about everyone in attendance – of any age – knows that you dare not break.

We are not talking about pow wow etiquette, which is important; we are talking about the rules of which we usually don’t speak. In fact, these rules are so seldom discussed, they are passed down, generation to generation, by intuition.

#1: Don’t Sit in That Elder’s Chair!

You know you are not supposed to sit there. And don’t pretend you don’t know which chair we are talking about. It’s the super-deluxe, monogrammed elder’s folding chair with umbrella clamp, drink holder and mesh basket underneath the seat for holding specialty items.   

If you did sit in that chair? Well, let’s just say that elder is old-school, and you may not be sitting down again anytime soon.

#2: Don’t Talk To That One Vendor Before He/She’s Had Their Coffee

Umm ... excuse me Miss? Oh, uh, never mind...  (iStock)

This doesn’t need much explanation. You know the one we are talking about – you arrive late on Friday, camp until the morning, when everyone starts setting up. Steer clear of this vendor until coffee has been consumed … because … well let’s just some ‘grumpy vendors’ have been known to throw things.

#3:Just Know That Some Visitors Will Think Everything You Say is Connected to the Earth

Bless their hearts, some visitors think that no matter what you say to them, ‘It has a supreme connection to the earth and is divinely guided with the spirit of all animals and the trees… ” and, well you know. Even if you say, “My coffee’s cold,” it is a sign from beyond. If you answer your cell phone, it’s a call from the spirit world. If you sneeze, it is a sign from the Universe to clean out the past ways.

#4: Mentally Prepare Yourself to Hear “My Great-Uncle Was Cherokee” 973 Times

Truth told, there is nothing wrong with sharing the Native ancestry in your family tree. But at a pow wow, you have to prepare ourselves to hear about every single Native DNA fiber in the world. “Oh, your uncle was Cherokee?” (Smile and nod, smile and nod - repeat, ad infinitum.)

#5: Parents of ‘Energetic Kids’ Are Permitted to Influence their Kids to Dance, ‘One More Time!’

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Need we continue?  (iStock)

We all know those native pow wow kids who always have an abundance of energy. They can only do so many craft projects that are supposed to keep them from asking “Are we home yet?” for the 76th time. So, dear parents of these “highly motivated kids,” you are permitted to give them a few gentle nudges to dance “One more time!” There is a lot of parental bliss in a quiet car filled with sleeping children after a busy, busy pow wow day.

#6” The Weather Will Be in Opposition to the Regalia You Wear

It is a supreme rule of all our ancestors – who laugh like coyotes watching us from the other side – that the weather will be the exact opposite of what we need, based on our wardrobe that day. Wearing three layers of buckskin? It is going to be a humid 99 degrees that day. Going with a thin ribbon shirt or wearing a simple loincloth? Break out the sled: It is going to snow.

#7: The Two Friends You Invite To Meet You at the Pow Wow Have Been Mad At Each Other Since 2004

You meant well, but you invited your buddy Fred and your other friend Martha. Unfortunately, Fred and Martha are long-time friends with Ricky, who left his car parked at Fred’s house one time when he went to visit Martha, forgot to tell Fred, who got mad, and Martha didn’t like the way Ricky and Fred acted, and … Needless to say, you should have called Lynette first – she knows Fred’s mom and you could have avoided this whole mess. And whatever you do, don’t tell Martha you dated Fred’s best friend.

#8: You Will Stomp Your Foot Down Hard on the Only Sharp Rock in the Circle

Lululu-OUCH! dammit...  (iStock)

Even if the dancing area is huge, your soul will carry you like a bee to pollen straight to the one rock hidden from sight, and you will slam your foot to down on at approximately 100 miles an hour.


This article is reprinted from our latest ICTMN Pow Wow Magazine.

Read and download ICTMN’s Spring #PowWow Issue here -

Follow ICTMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wow’s and Sports Editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

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