5 tips for the first time you attend a Powwow

Powwow season is in full swing across the country and if you have never attended one we’ve got some handy tips for your first time.

Powwow season underway across Canada

Powwow season is in full swing across the country, and if you have never attended one, we’ve got some handy tips for your first time.

Powwows are open to anyone and everyone is welcome.

"When you go to a pow wow you'll see a lot of laughing, visiting. It's a time to get together to enjoy our culture, enjoy another … enjoy the beautiful dancing,” said Katina Cochrane of Peguis First Nation.

Katina Cochrane, Peguis First Nation, has been dancing for 27 years. She is a Jingle Dress dancer and participates in powwows all over Canada. (Dawn McCorrister)
Katina Cochrane has been dancing for 27 years, since she was one year old. Originally a Fancy Shawl dancer, Cochrane has recently moved on to Jingle Dress dancing and participates in powwows all over Canada.

"When you're at a powwow you'll see a lot of pride … At a powwow you'll see our people strong, in their most beautiful presence,” said Cochrane.

Cochrane helped us come up with these tips for a powwow first timer.

1.  Get there a little early

Powwows are usually packed. If you want a good view, it's a good idea to snag yourself a seat ahead of time. And if you show up later in the day, feel free to bring your own blankets and lawn chairs to set up in case seating is unavailable.

Getting there early means you’ll catch the grand entry, where all the dancers, princesses, elders and honoured guests line up, walk into a circle and dance together.

After that there is an honour song, introductions and intertribals.  Then the competition starts.

There are dancers who come all over the country to a powwow  to compete, often for prizes. For some individuals, dancing is how they make a living.

2. Show your appreciation

Sometimes people cheer and clap. You can also talk to the dancers, singers and drummers; shake their hands, let them know that you enjoyed what you’ve seen and heard.

There are also other ways to show appreciation. You can offer tobacco to the dancers, drummers and singers, as a sign of respect. Some people offer beads,sewing needles, thread, bells, leather, material and tools that dancers can use to make regalia.

Sometime people even place money at the feet of a dancer. There are a lot of expenses when it comes to putting together the regalia so an audience member can show their support by contributing financially in whatever amount they can or would like to contribute.

The regalia you will see is truly amazing. If you want to take a picture of a dancer, it is customary to ask permission first.

3. Take a chance and join the dance!

Audience members are very much encouraged to get up and dance or walk along with the intertribal dances. You’ll hear an announcement, so there will be no missing it.

Look out for the people people without regalia — dancing and walking along and join in!

4. What NOT to bring to a powwow

It's a drug and alcohol-free environment, and the dancers, singers and drummers practise a drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyle. It's customary to be free of drugs and alcohol for at least four days prior to attending a pow wow.

5. Enjoy yourself

As a dancer leaving a powwow ... I feel really rejuvenated. [It]leaves me feeling spiritually strong. When I dance my spirit feels really happy- Katina Cochrane

Powwows are a time of celebration, building relationships, friendships and respect. Expect to see a lot of families and to hear of a lot of laughter and cheering!

"As a dancer leaving a powwow I just feel really good and happy ... I feel really rejuvenated. [It] leaves me feeling spiritually strong. When I dance my spirit feels really happy,” said Cochrane.

There is a lot of positive energy put into holding an event like this, and like Cochrane, you might just leave feeling a bit happier and inspired yourself.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their amazing powwow pictures. To see more pictures, or to submit your powwow photos, head over to our Facebook page.


Maggie Moose is a 22 year old Winnipeg writer, filmmaker and musician from Nelson House First Nation. She is a graduate of the National Screen Institute New Voices program. Maggie has worked with the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, Manito Ahbee, and Just TV. She is currently an associate producer with CBC’s Aboriginal unit.