Is a Algonquian term "pau-wau" or "pauau", which referred to a gathering of medicine men and/or spiritual
leaders. "Pau-wauing" referred to a religious ceremony, usually one of curing.
1800's the European explorers observing our religious gatherings and dances mispronounced the word as
powwow. The Europeans began to use the term to describe nearly any gathering of Native people they
experienced and eventually, we began using the term.
As more First Nations people learned English,
the more "powwow" became the accepted standard for us and non-First Nations people.
A modern pow-wow is a specific event where both First Nations people and non-First Nations people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor our culture.
Powwow dance activities are divided into two types, intertribal (social dances) and competition dancing. When intertribal songs are sung, all dance styles, all ages and
genders participate, First Nations as well as non-First Nations, may enter the arbor and dance.
popular dance for non-first nations during an intertribal is the Round dance. It is an easy dance to follow as
everyone joins hands inside the arbor forming a big circle moving clockwise. If there are many people
participating, an other circle is formed inside the first circle that moves in the opposite direction.
The Round dance creates a simple and fun activity that brings both cultures together for positive
There is generally a dancing competition, often with significant prize money awarded. Pow-wows vary in length from one day session of 5 to 6 hours to three days. Major pow-wows or pow-wows called for a special occasion can be up to one week long.
Spirit of Dance
Dances at contemporary Pow-wow celebrations are social and competitive. Everyone is invited to take part in the social dances (eg. Round dances, Intertribal, etc.), and ‘Specials’ are danced to honor individuals. While many dancers take part in competitions, some dance just because they enjoy it.
Dance is many things: it can be ceremonial, tell stories, heal the dancer and others close to them, entertain, inspire self-confidence and bridge generations. Above all, it is a celebration of culture and heritage.