Table of contents

Powwows

A powwow gathers people together to celebrate family, community and Nations through song and dance, ceremonies, and displays of hospitality and unity. Powwows typically take place on First Nations and in urban centres across Canada during the summer.

Powwows are a social, artistic and spiritual expression of an evolving peoples.

Modern powwows started on the Great Plains during the late 19th century. Since the 1950s, they have been growing in size, number and popularity. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike attend, and there are many opportunities for visitors to learn about traditional and contemporary First Nations life and cultures.

At one time powwows were obstructed in Canada, as the Indian Act did not allow First Nations people to practice their traditional ceremonial dances or wear traditional clothing. Today, the powwow is a cultural celebration of intertribal dancers, singers and drummers from across north America – a testament to resilience of a people.

The 2 main types of powwows are traditional and competition. In competition powwows, the dancers and drum groups compete for cash prizes. Both types of powwow have ceremonial and social elements.

Powwows usually open with a Grand Entry, which is a procession that includes Elders, veterans, RCMP, political and community leaders, special dignitaries, and dancers.

Some of the dances performed at a powwow include:

  • chicken dance (men’s dance)
  • grass dance (men’s dance)
  • jingle dress dance (women’s dance)
  • men's fancy dance
  • men's traditional dances
  • women's fancy dance
  • women's fancy shawl dance
  • women's traditional dance

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