Purpose | Costume | Dance

Purpose of a Pow-wow:

The Grand Entry of a Pow-wow
(Northern Arapaho Pow-wow, Boulder, CO, 2001)


The Pow-wow began in the mid 1800s, originating in traditional men's societies and social/ceremonial gatherings. Popularity of the Pow-wow tradition increased after WWII when the soldiers returned home from the war. In order to honor them, many warrior society dances of the 19th century, including the Pow-wow, were given new meaning.

Pow-wows are a social gathering that includes competitive dance as well as honoring ceremonies. These gatherings can take place on a family, community, tribal, regional, or even national level. The Pow-wow ceremonies are valued for the naming and adoption rituals, reception of families into public life after a time of mourning, entertainment, and interaction among friends and family.

The larger Pow-wows are a statement of American Indian identity in which celebration of unity as Native Americans is favored over individual tribes. Pow-wows are held throughout the nation, including Denver , home to one of the greatest gatherings in the country. Just a few decades ago, most took place on reservations, but now many of the prevalent Pow-wows take place in convention centers, gyms, and other public places.

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