Charley's 16 Powwow Rules by Charles
reprinted with permission--obtained 01/17/97
Powwow general rules for first timers.
It should be noted that every POWWOW is different so the first rule is the
most important. The key is respect, and many "first timers" don't have access
to the life-long teachings that we take for granted. Here are "Charley's 16
rules", hope you enjoy.
The following are general rules I give to follow when going to a POWWOW.
- Listen to the Master of Ceremonies.
- Do not sit within the arena. The chairs inside the arena are reserved for
the dancers. Use the outside circle or bleachers if provided.
- If you want to take pictures, check with the POWWOW host first, then check
with the person you are taking pictures of and ASK THEIR PERMISSION. Under no
circumstances may you enter the arena to take photos. Put your camera down
for all memorial dances.
- All tape recording must be done with the permission of the Master of
Ceremonies and the Lead (or Head) Singer of EACH drum. When a new drum
starts, do not enter the arena to get to the other drum. Don't run. Miss the
song and wait for the next one to take your time getting to the drum. Nothing
is more rude than "Recorder-runners" ganging around a drum. Many Powwow
disallow this anyway (fine by me!).
- If you are not wearing traditional Regalia, you may dance only on social
songs (like Two-Step, Blanket Dance, Honoring Songs, Circle, etc..).
Sometimes a blanket dance is held to gather money. You may enter the circle
- Only those with the permission of the Lead Singer may sit at a drum. (And
it's a good idea to know the songs because it's often a habit to ask the
"stranger" to lead one.)
- Stand and men must remove their hat (unless traditional head gear) during
the Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Invocation, Memorial, Veterans Songs, and the
- During the Gourd Dancing, only Gourd Dancers and Gourd Dance Societies are
to enter the Dance arena. Owning a gourd rattle does not make one a Gourd
Dancer. Check with the local Societies.
- Please do not permit your children to enter the dance circle unless they
- Do not touch anyone's dance Regalia without their permission. These
clothes are not "costumes" and yes we use modern things like safety pins and
such because we are a "living" culture, our Regalia is subject to change.
Leave your stereotypes at home. (Yes there are some blond tribal enrolled
Indians... no ones fault that life goes on!)
- If you are asked to dance by an elder, do so. It is rude and
disrespectful to say, "I don't know how." How can you learn if you turn the
- Most all Powwows do not allow Alcoholic beverages, Gold Paint cans, or
drugs here. The Powwow is a time of joyful gathering and celebration of
life. Alcohol and drugs are destroying our way of life and these "bad"
spirits are not welcome.
- It's funny how much trash we as people drop. Make an extra effort to walk
to the trash can. Respect Mother Earth.
- Remember always: Native American Indian dances are more than the word
"dance" can describe. They are a ceremony and a prayer which all life
encompasses and produce many emotional and spiritual reactions. Some dances
are old, some are brand new... the culture continues to live and evolve.
- Urban Powwows are much more "tense" than Powwows on the rez. As people
are away from the comfort of culture, they tend to take things more seriously.
Abide by peoples wishes and requests. We as Indian people believe
differently. Some dance around clock-wise, others counter clock-wise. If our
host asks, we sometimes voluntarily show our respect by temporarily changing
our way(s). Show your respect by doing the same.
- Have fun. Buy something from the vendors. Donate if you can. And most of
all don't be so uptight and relax. The whole universe comes together this day
to celebrate. You are invited to join in.
Please remember, these are general rules when there is no other ground
work to proceed from. Hope this helps. --Charles Phillip Whitedog
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