Meskwaki Powwow

The annual powwow celebration is a time for renewing contacts within and outside the Meskwaki tribe. Costumed dancers, food and souvenir vendors, and special programs are offered every August.

In earlier years, the corn harvest festivals marked the end of the summer growing season and the time when the village broke up for the winter hunt.

The Meskwaki powwow has been documented by photographers, filmmakers, newspaper reporters, and others over the years.

Investigate the stories behind this cultural event. Click here to read a complete chronicle of the powwow from the beginnings up through the early 1980s. In 1923 the federal government sent a letter to the tribe discouraging dancing, but in fact the powwow was becoming a successful commercial enterprise, attracting white tourists and an expanded program of activities.

Powwow Posters

Svacina Collection

Joseph Svacina collected powwow posters from the celebrations held in the first three decades of the twentieth century.

 

 

Powwow Movies

Monroe P. Killy created a silent 16 mm color film at the powwow in 1948, adding title cards before each sequence when editing the film. His still photographs can be seen in his photograph gallery. Three excerpts from the movie film are presented here: Making Fry Bread, Konono Game, and the Swan Dance.

Kendrick Melvet's silent 16 mm color film documents the powwow celebration held in 1946, including rare footage of wickiups and tents on the powwow grounds and a doctor who examined babies at the Settlement.

A Japanese man, Konnie Koshinaga, filmed a portrait of Iowa in the late 1940s, using silent 16 mm color film and title cards to introduce sections. Besides focusing on Iowa's farming activities and industry, the film offers shots of scenic beauty, historic sites, and popular events like the Meskwaki powwow.

KCRG-TV of Cedar Rapids visited the powwow in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and filmed a food vendor and artist Adeline Wanatee with her yarn belts. KCRG-TV reporters also filmed segments on powwow visitors and on race relations at the Meskwaki Settlement.

Powwow Photographs

Multitudes of photographs have been taken by tourists visiting the powwow over the years but most remain in private hands. Some of the historical photographs of powwow participants and activities can be seen in the collections of Josephine Wallace, Fred W. Kent, Monroe P. Killy, Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret, Robert Campagna, and others.

 

Color photo of dancers at 1953 powwow from the Fred Kent Collection, Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.