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
Powwow events in Alberta
Almost 10,000 spectators come out each year. The event helps raise attendees’ awareness of services Poundmaker’s Lodge provides to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The theme for 2019 is Honouring Indigenous Language and Culture and features traditional dancers, singers, traditional foods, and crafts.
August 3 to 4, 2019
Location: Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres
25108 Poundmaker Road
Sturgeon County, AB
Contact: Libby Szarka, Community Engagement Officer
Phone: 780-458-1884, ext 330
In honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Samson Cree Nation hosts this annual competition powwow. This year’s theme is Honouring and Strengthening Our Treaties.
Featuring a singing contest, a dancing contest and hand games.
August 16 to 18, 2019
Location: Kehewin Cree Nation Reserve
Hwy 657, Kehewin, AB
Alexander First Nation Traditional Powwow
August 24 to 25, 2019
Location: Alexander Powwow Grounds
Alexander Indian Reserve 134: West of Hwy 44 and 642
Sturgeon County, AB
Contact: Jeannie Paul
August 24, 2019, 1 pm to 9 pm
Location: Salvation Army Pine Lake Camp
25032 South Pine Lake Road
Red Deer County, AB
Contact: Shari Russell