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Pow Wow Etiquette

Pow Wow Etiquette for Visitors and Newcomers

* Bring your own seating when attending pow wows, because public seating is the exception rather than the rule. Lawn chairs are the most common way of solving 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, and it is usually good courtesy to ask the permission of the dancer whose bench you are sitting behind, as he/she might have family who are going to sit by him or her.

* Ask permission before taking pictures of dancers. Many people are sensitive about pictures, so it is always good to be on the safe side and ask.

*Donate money to the Drum.This is done during a 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 the rest of that song, regardless of if you are dressed or not. If you don’t want to dance, you should ask a dancer to place the money on the drum for you. The drum has probably traveled a great distance to give you the beautiful songs you hear, and count on this to help pay their expenses.

* Always stand during special songs. This includes Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Veteran Songs, Memorial Songs, Prayer Songs, or any other song that the M.C. designates. It is also customary to remove any hats that you have on for the duration of that song.

* Always listen to the M.C. He will give all of the information you need, as well as entertain you and keep you posted on news. Any questions you have can be answered by him.

*Remember you are a guest. Have fun, ask questions and meet people. Everyone there is welcome!

Etiquette for Dancers

* Never come to a Pow Wow intoxicated or bring alcohol!

* Be on time, dressed and ready to go before Grand Entry. It is a bad habit to not make Grand Entry, and may lose you points if you are contesting!

* Place your blanket on the bench you want to sit at ahead of time. Nothing is worse than not having a seat 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 of the dances. At Formal War Dances, you will not be allowed to take a break until everyone does.

* Give respect to the Head Man and 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 honour 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 of 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. A elder is asked to pick up the feather, and he will keep the feather.

* In a Two Step, it is ladies’ choice. If you refuse to dance with the first person who asks you, you must give her at least five or ten dollars (the M.C. will usually say). The same rule applies to a hat or shawl dance.

Etiquette for the Drum and Singers

* Always ask the Head Singer to sit at a drum. Many times drums are closed, meaning that the Head Singer has chosen who is to sit at the drum. You can not argue with his decision.

* Ladies are not allowed to sit in the first row of a drum. They may not strike the drum, but are allowed to sing, sitting behind their husband or the man who asked her to sing.

* Know the songs you are to sing. If you ask to be on a drum, the Head Singer must assume that you can sing all the songs he knows. Be prepared.

* Any gift given to the drum is first given to the Head Singer. It is his job to then divide up the gift to the rest of the drum as he sees fit.

* Never sing too loud or over beat. Mistakes such as these are forgiven with a monetary contribution to the Head Singer.

* Everything goes around the drum in one direction, depending on the tribe the drum belongs to. Do not pass things over the drum.

*Always sing your best. Enjoy yourself, and know that without the drum, there is no Pow Wow.

Practicing good etiquette for pow wows means more than knowing which fork to use at dinner, because the consequences of a mistake can be much worse.

A breach in etiquette is a sure way to offend someone, if not a way to be removed from the arena. The best way to avoid this is to know what is expected of you before you go!

These rules are a guideline for most pow wows around but check the rules by asking people around you or the M.C.

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