Traditional Pow Wow Dances

Drum Arbor
The arbor is constructed in the form of a circle. The four colors fly from the four direction poles in the Drum Arbor. These colors, red, yellow, black and white are symbolic of many important Native American beliefs. The colors represent the four directions, North, East, South, and West; the four virtues bravery, generosity, wisdom, and fortitude; the four colors of man red, yellow, black and white; the four ages of man, birth, youth, old age and death. Many other thoughts can be revealed in the circle as you watch the dancers.

All Native Americans honor the circle as a powerful symbol of life. The dance arena reminds us of the circle of life and how we are all connected with each other and our surroundings. The arena circle is blessed by a spiritual leader sometime before dancing takes place. Usually tobacco, sage or cedar are used by the dancers as they enter the circle to dance. The dancers themselves are smudged before entering the circle and all bad feelings are left outside of the ring. The circle is considered a sacred place, please treat it as you would a church.

The Head veteran and other veterans dance and are honored as warriors of old were, as they post the flag. Warriors in Native American culture are looked up to and respected for their part in service to our country. Many men and women have served during wars and have seen combat. All have given a portion of their lives for the defense of our freedoms. Today Native American culture holds in esteem the veterans that are here to dance as well as all the veterans and warriors who have crossed over. Honor is shown to the veterans by everyone standing during Veteranís songs. Please show the veterans respect in the dance arena and anywhere else on the pow wow grounds.

Grand Entry
Grand Entry will be held before the traditional dances, at the start of each dance session. The Grand Entry will be led by the Veterans, who will post the flags. Following the veterans will be the Visiting Royalty and Special Guests followed by the Senior Men, Menís Northern Traditional, Menís Southern Straight, Menís Grass Dancers and Menís Fancy Dancers. The men are followed by younger men and boys in the same categories. After the men dancers, the Womenís Northern Traditional, Womenís Buckskin, Womenís Cloth, Womenís Jingle and Fancy Shawl Dancers will enter the circle. Finally the women are followed by younger women and girls.

During the Grand Entry, invocation, honor songs and flag songs everyone who is able should stand. First the Eagle Staff is carried into the dance circle by the Head Veteran Dancer. Other veterans will carry flags such as the United States flag, the Canadian, P.O.W., Indiana or tribal flags. All the dancers follow after the flagsí entry. The dance will be clockwise starting at the East entrance.

After the Grand Entry song, a flag song will be played by one of the drum groups. A victory song may follow with the dancers standing attentively. An invocation or blessing will be asked by a spiritual leader. Lastly the Eagle Staff is brought by the head Veteran and put in a place of honor before the dancing continues.

Honor Song
During this special song everyone is expected to stand if they are able and remove their hats. Honor songs are sung at pow wows at the request of someone for another person or a special occasion. The memory of a loved one who has crossed over, the return of a child to health after an illness, an aged relative, or all the members of a clan could be shown respect with an honor song. Someone requesting an honor song should contact the arena director who will decide when the song will be sung and by which drum. A gift is customary for the drum that performs the honor song.

Intertribal Dance
An Intertribal Dance is a chance for everyone to dance! Visitors may dance with the Native people. Spectators become participants. Everyone is welcome. You do not have to be wearing regalia, street clothes are fine. The dancers will move as the sun moves in a clockwise motion around the drum arbor. The basic step is the same as the Traditional dancers use. The ball of the foot is tapped on the ground during one beat then the foot is placed flat on the ground during the next beat, repeat this step with the otherfoot without missing a beat. As you enter on the East side of the arena leave any animosity or hard feelings outside. Start truly listening to the drum. Dance with your entire body and spirit!

Two Step
The Two Step is a ladies choice dance. Ask anyone who has not already been asked and he will dance with you. If he refuses he must give the lady who asked a part of his regalia or pay! During a two step simply repeat the actions of the couple in front of you, but most importantly have fun!

Jingle Dress Dance
Originally an Ojibwa holy man had a dream in which four women wore dresses that made a pretty sound to him. The dream women showed him how to dance and what types of songs were to be danced to. Upon awakening the holy man and his wife made the dresses that he had dreamed of. Calling the four women, he gave them the dresses and taught them the dances. At the next dance the women and the holy man taught the people about the dream and the way that medicine women were to dance and dress. Jingle dress dancing spread from the Ojibwa to the Sioux/ Lakota, to the Dakotas. Now women from many tribes wear the jingle dress and participate in the jingle dress dance.

Womenís Traditional Dance
In Native American society women are more earth oriented. The Womenís Traditional Dance is symbolic of this closeness in that the women keep their feet in touch with the earth while bending the knee slightly and giving an up and down and slow turning motion to the body. This could also symbolize the way women would scan the horizon looking for the return of the warriors or hunters.

During certain points in the song the women will raise their hands or fans during honor beats or at certain words with special meaning to them.

Women's Traditional Dance


Womenís Fancy Shawl Dance
During the early 1900ís Native American women began to replace their blankets and buffalo robes with colorful shawls for dancing. Some say that as the women produced more intricate designs on their shawls they were more likely to dance fancier footsteps during dances to show off their shawls. This in turn gave rise to the Womenís Fancy Shawl Dance. Most of the dancers will wear a cloth, knee-length skirt, beaded moccasins and leggings, a traditional shirt with trade silver, topped off by a bright colored shawl. The style of the dance is very ostentatious. Flashy footwork and spinning with much more movement than traditional dancing are a part of the Womenís Fancy Shawl Dance.

Women's Fancy Shawl Dance


Menís Grass Dance
The Menís Grass Dance is very colorful with regalia trimmed with long fringe made of yarn or ribbons. The graceful movements of the dancersí bodies cause the fringe to sway like tall prairie grass. The bells they wear emphasize their precise movements.

Menís Traditional Dance
In the Menís Traditional Dance, the dancer is telling the story of former hunting and war experiences. Elegant movements of the whole body are used in depicting these stories. This dance step is done with the ball of the foot on the ground on the first beat and the whole foot touching on the second. The steps arenít as fast and fancy as those of the grass dancers or fancy dancers.

Menís Traditional Dance

Menís Fancy Dancing
Spectators prompted the advent of the Menís and Womenís Fancy Dance. During the early 1900ís when Promoters of Native American ceremonials and ďWild West ShowsĒ wanted more glamour in their productions, they asked the Native Americans to beautify and embellish their traditional outfits for the spectators. Simultaneously the advent of cash prizes for dancing came about. This also motivated the Native Americans to beautify their outfits for competition dancing.

The Fancy Dance uses the double step of the grass dancer, but adds different steps, increased speed, and acrobatic steps. These athletic dancers are graceful and powerful.

Menís Fancy Dancing



Welcome to the 24th Annual
Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow
"Honoring Mother Earth"
August 9-11, 2019
Morsches Park, State Road 205, Columbia City, Indiana