Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Have you ever been to a Pow Wow?

Saturday March 9, 2013
Site 20, Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, Florida


 Olivia and Paula


Today we get together with one of my commenters and fellow blogger Paula and her daughter Olivia.  Paula’s blog is Our Year Outdoors.   In it she, her husband, and daughter are visiting all of Florida’s state parks, one at a time.  She’s is a great ambassador for the parks.  I’ve learned a lot about the parks from her. 




It is actually Olivia who tells her mother, who tells us about the Pow Wow just down the road a few miles in DeLand.  We are lovers of Pow Wows and go to them every time we get a chance so we jump at this unexpected opportunity.


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Native American Pow Wows are held all over the country by various Native groups and tribes as a way to reinforce and share their culture and traditions.   It is a time for community, family, tradition, singing, dancing and socializing.

A Pow Wow can last a day, a week-end or a week.  It can be an afternoon or have 3 parts in each day.  This is the 9th annual DeLand Pow Wow and is held Friday through Sunday March 8, 9 and 10.

As soon as I enter the grounds, my senses are heightened. I can smell the sweetgrass and sage, hear the pulsing beat of the drum, the jingle of dresses and bells, see the brilliant colored regalia being worn by the dancers.    This is an atmosphere I have genuinely come to love.  Pow Wows make me happy.  That these people have endured so much and yet continue to celebrate their tradition and the country which openly practiced genocide against them is a serious reason for hope for us all.


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Much of the tradition including the burning of herbs, the types of dances and regalia has come down from the Plains Indians of the 19th Century.    I have found that Pow Wows have an organization and ceremony which seems to be similar no matter where in the country you attend one.

A pow-wow is normally set up as a series of large concentric circles. The center circle is the dance arena, outside of which is a circle consisting of the Master of Ceremonies table, drum groups, and sitting areas for dancers and their families. This 2nd tier circle is often covered by either a committee built arbor, or each group will provide their own sun shade. Beyond these two circles for participants is often an area for spectators, and  outside of all is the ring of vendor's booths, where one can buy supplies, food, or arts and crafts items.

We arrive just after 11 so the first thing we do is walk the outer circle of vendors to see the educational exhibits, the regalia supplies, jewelry and other craft items for sale. 


Olivia and Paula1


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Olivia visits the demonstration area where she plants pumpkin seeds toOlivia2 take home and plant in her garden.  Normally this area has the ‘three sisters seeds’ corn, squash and beans but perhaps yesterday was a big day for hands on and the corn and beans are gone.  Beans would grow up the corn stalks and squash shade the ground around the corn roots.

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As we walk along we can hear and feel the pulsing of the drum. 

The master of ceremonies, or MC, is the voice of the pow-wow. It is his job to keep the singers, dancers, and general public informed as to what is happening. The MC sets the schedule of events, and maintains the drum rotation of when each drum group gets to sing. The MC is also responsible for filling any dead air time that may occur during the pow-wow, often with bad jokes. The MC often runs any raffles or other contests that may happen during the pow-wow.


DeLand Pow Wow 277Each Pow Wow has a Head Man Dancer and A Head Woman Dancer.  They are responsible for leading the other dancers during a song, and often dancers will not enter the circle unless the head dancers are already out dancing. The head dancers also lead the other dancers in the grand entry which is the parade of dancers that opens a pow-wow.





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The Host Drum of the pow-wow is a drum group responsible for providing music for the dancers to dance to. At an Intertribal pow-wow like this one which lasts 3 days there are often two or more drums hired to be the host drums. Sometimes there are visiting drums as well.   Each drum is a group of 5+ drummers and has a Lead Singer who runs his drum and leads his singers while singing. Host drums are responsible for singing the songs at the beginning and end of a pow-wow session, generally a starting song, the grand entry song, a flag song, and a veterans or victory song to start the pow-wow, and a flag song, retreat song and closing song to end the pow-wow.

This Pow Wow begins at 10:00 all three days and the last event begins at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday and at 4:00 on Sunday.  All of the times are approximate as things run more of less on schedule.  This is sometimes known as Indian time.

The first morning session of drumming and dancing is playing when we arrive.  They play and sing from 10:00 to noon when they break for lunch.  The second session begins at 1:00 and opens with the Grand Entry during which all the dancers line up by dance style and age, then enter the sacred circle single file while one of the host drums sings a special song. Normally, the first in are veterans carrying flags and the traditional eagle staffs, followed by the head dancers.  Then the dancers follow in a specific order:


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First are the Men's Traditional dancers - protectors and preservers of the traditional ways; with their double eagle feather bustles and their high kicking steps. Next are the Men's Fancy dancers, recognized by their colorful regalia. The Men's Grass dancers with their striking outfits covered with long, colorful fringes follow. Their dance movements are a sliding, shaking, and spinning motion, similar to long grass blowing in the wind. Teens, Juniors and Tiny tots follow in their respective categories.



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Following the male dancers are the Women's Traditional dancers, who dance in a stately and poised manner, moving slowly and gracefully to the beat of the drum, dressed in elaborately decorated regalia with Eagle plumes worn on the back of the head and an Eagle fan in the right hand.

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Next are the Women's Fancy dancers, whose long, graceful fringed shawls are draped over the shoulders. Their twirling rapid dance steps compliment the flaring shawls.

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The Women's Jingle dancers follow.   Originally from the Ojibwe Nation, this dance is recognized as a healing dance. The dress is covered with tin cones (made from snuff tin covers) and bouncy dance steps create rhythmic jingling in time of the beat of the drum. Again, teens, juniors and tiny tots follow in their respective categories.

Following the Grand Entry, the MC will invite a respected member of the community to give an invocation. The host drum that did not sing the Grand Entry song will then sing a Flag Song, followed by a Victory or Veterans' Song, during which the flags and staffs are posted at the MC's table.


The dancing then begins with the MC asking the various drums to play for specific dancers. 

Most of the various types of dances performed at a pow-wow are descended from the dances of the Plains tribes of Canada and the United States. Besides those for the opening and closing of a pow-wow session, the most common is the intertribal, where a drum will sing a song and anyone who wants to can come and dance. An intertribal is the only dance where all members of the audience are welcomed into the sacred circle.


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In addition to the dances, contest dances for a particular style and age group are often held, with the top winners receiving a cash prize. To compete in a contest the dancer must be in an outfit appropriate for the competition.   As far as I could tell, there were no contests held at the DeLand Pow Wow.

The modern day Pow Wow bases itself on the fundamental values common to Native Americans throughout North America: honor, respect, tradition, and generosity. 

Along with their families, thousands of singers, dancers, artists, and craftspeople follow the "Pow Wow Trail" all over the continent to share and celebrate their culture.


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The festivities here break again for dinner at 5:00.  We have an Indian Taco, which is normally made of buffalo meat on flat fry bread topped with lettuce tomato sour cream, the usual tostada sorts of things.  It is delicious.  Fry Bread is wonderful.   The Pow Wow will resume at 7:00 with the Grand Entry followed by Exhibition Dancing.  Tonight there is an Aztec Fire Dancer.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Pow Wow, they are much more common in the west.  So I didn’t remember that I should have come later in the afternoon so I’d be willing to stay and wait for the fire dancer.  He needs it to be dark so with the time switch he won’t come on until after 8:00.  Sure wish I’d known he would be here.  Sorry no pictures of the exhibition dancing.

If you’ve ever been to a Native American Pow Wow, I hope you’ll comment about your experience.  I’d love to know of other Pow Wows people have enjoyed.  I need them on my list of places to go.


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  1. What a cool thing to do! The costumes are so colorful and beautiful. Good to see heritage passed down and celebrated.

    Now I just HAVE to get a hat like the guy with the orange shirt was wearing. I could start a new RV fashion trend... ;c)

  2. And so we migrate from the pow of the West Indian Manatees to the Pow-Wows of the Native American Indians. In my last comment I wondered how much 35mm film would have cost to produce all of these fascinating photo enriched adventures into Florda's parks. Actually, what I should be doing is pondering what it would cost for me to tour them all as Sherry and David have.......... We owe you two!! I've saved so much, and learned so much at the same time. Thank you.

  3. I attended a Pow Wow hosted by the Leni Lenape in a little coastal town way down in Southern NJ. It took me forever to get there from the DC Metro area, but walking into the grounds IS transformational. I loved all the dancing, music, drumming, regalia, etc., but I love the grass dancers best. There were Indians attending from as far away as New Mexico (the hoop dancers), and I remember particularly a dancer from the Eastern Band of Cherokees in NC. The announcer gave a good background on each set of dancers, including explanations of regalia. I've always wanted to go to another one, but the timing never was right, and then I got to where I didn't want to be in big crowds such as those that amassed at the Cherokee PowWow in NC. I'd love to go to something like the smaller one in New Jersey again. (The Leni Lenape were called "Delaware" by the Europeans. I think it is hateful that most tribes were called something else by the European Americans.)

  4. Sherry we may never be able to get to the SE Coast but I will always have the memories of travels there through your eyes and all your beautiful pictures!!! Thanks for letting us tag along.

  5. Great Pow Wow! We have been to one in AZ many years ago.

  6. Never been to one but would love to see it. Their costumes are so elaborate.

  7. You just did a blog on my childhood. I spent almost every summer at Pow Wows. My great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and my Mom was so very proud of her Native American history. We became good friends with many Indians of different tribes, Ottawa, Navajo, Kiowa, Sioux, Miami, Cherokee, Cree, just to name a few. We went to an Indian Camp Meeting in Michigan one summer and were the only non full blooded Indians there. It was amazing. I have several pieces of jewelry given to my Mom, myself and my Dad that were hand made by our friends. I used to dance all the time myself, I have one of the shawls with the long fringe. I have a Navajo outfit, a Miami outfit and a Cherokee. One of my favorite Indians was an elderly Ottawa lady we called Ma Peters. She taught my Mom how to make Fry Bread and I learned from my Mom. I still make it today. They used to sell it at Pow Wows they attended and had long lines waiting to buy it. A Sioux Indian made my Mom the most beautiful earrings when we kept her granddaughters after their father was severely hurt and was in the hospital for weeks, as a thank you. These are memories that I will cherish, and I have so many pictures to share with my grand children. Thanks for bringing back the memories. My favorite were always the Fancy Dancers. I had this huge crush on one when I was a teenager. Shhh...don't tell my husband. :)

  8. I've attended many many powwows. As a foster parent for Native kids for twenty years we made the rounds all over the Northwest. In addition. I crafted regalia for a number of the kids. 3 grass dancers, 1 jingle dress and 1 boys traditional regalia. Normally the family makes the regalia for their family members and pieces are passes down from generation to generation. In the case of foster children they often don't have access to the family pieces so I with help from Native people in the community and my Auntie made our best attempt at providing the children a way to participate in their cultural activities and communities. While there are many similarities from region to region, many tribes have their own songs and dances that celebrate their particular history. So I will make a point to try and visit as many powwows around the country as possible. There is a huge powwow at Four Corners that I would love to attend one day. Lots of good memories at powwows.

  9. I love the energy at PowWow!

  10. Have never had the opportunity to attend a pow wow, so I found your post very interesting ... helps me understand why a co-worker was so taken with attending them that she would plan her vacations around them.

  11. Olivia and I had a wonderful time with you and David! Thank you for opening our eyes to such a powerful new experience. Hopefully soon I can get Olivia into native dance. She sees fancy shawls in her future!

  12. have never been to one but would love to..great pictures..so colourful...

  13. A number of years ago we went to an intertribal Pow Wow at Delta Park in Portland, Oregon. I love them: the colors, the dancers, the drums, the vendors, all of it.

  14. The last picture is terrific of that wise man and his braids. I enjoy pow wows too - such energy and tradition - so many smells and colors and music and movement. This blog was very informative - so glad you got to go and end that! :)

  15. I've never been to one. When I had my bead shop, I had a customer who bought a lot of beads to made jewelry to sell at various Pow Wows... they followed the circuit... she obviously did well. I forget exactly what she did make ... those little bag necklaces... hmmm ~ wonder how she's doing ~ gooooood customer!


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