106th Annual Meskwaki Powwow
August 6-9, 2020

Powwow Etiquette
"Let Respect Be Your Guide"
Whether you are a “seasoned” veteran or a first-time visitor to the powwow, certain behaviors are encouraged on the grounds and in the arena. Here are some tips to make you feel more at home and ensure your visit is an enjoyable experience.

Powwow dancers perform twice daily, in the early afternoon and early evening, each day of the gathering beginning with what is called “the grand entry”. It’s one of the most moving spectacles you can see. Stand up during the grand entry - Unless you are physically unable to stand, you are expected to show respect for the dancers and rise as they enter the arena. Show respect to the flag and honor song as well by standing until the songs are completed.

This is a social and cultural event, yet invested in reverence. You are going to see people engaged in elaborate and deeply traditional dances. Please conduct yourself as if you were in the home of the most respected friends of your most beloved relatives. Anything you wouldn’t do there, don’t do here. The singers and dancers want to share their culture and heritage with you, and they want you to have a good time so don’t worry about making a mistake. Just relax, sit back and enjoy the celebration.

Please refrain from negative thoughts or comments. The powwow grounds should be considered sacred. A blessing is performed ahead of time and sets the tone for the event. It sanctifies the area. Women on their monthly cycle should refrain from entering the arena. Although the blessing is not open to the public, its spiritual nature should be taken seriously.

Feel free to bring lawn chairs, but do not place them in front of the dancers’ chairs, and never sit in someone else’s chair or in the covered areas around the arena designed for the dancers and elders. Feel free to sit anywhere on the bleachers. Please do not enter the dance arena unless specifically invited to do so.

The event will include singing, drumming, traditional dancing and native dress, including full regalia (the word “costume” is often felt to trivialize these handcrafted family heirlooms). Never touch a Native American dancer’s regalia. If you feel the need to touch, always ask permission, and be gentle and considerate. Respect the personal space of dancers as you should for anyone else. You’ll find that most dancers are friendly and will answers your questions about their regalia.

Never record a Native American drum without the permission of the head singer. Frequently people do stand around drums and video or Snapchat without permission without any consequences. But it shows respect and consideration to ask permission first.

Dress modestly. It is not appropriate to wear halter tops, extremely short skirts or shorts, or swimsuits. Do not wear T-shirts or other items of clothing with profanity or inappropriate slogans.

Pay attention and listen. The MC (Master of Ceremonies) can be heard via the sound system. Listen to what he says. He is coordinating the powwow and advising visitors about additional protocol and event changes.

No alcohol, drugs or firearms are permitted at the powwow. Anyone found under the influence or in the possession of drugs or a firearm will be immediately escorted off the powwow grounds. Tobacco may be used, along with common sense and respect.

There is plenty of food and drink available for purchase around the area, as well the chance to purchase Native American handicrafts. Don’t leave without trying a Meskwaki specialty... especially the frybread!

Respect everyone, non-native and native, especially elders. Treat everyone with respect and kindness. Look out for children and pets. Treat others as you would expect to be treated.

Use courtesy and respect when photographing. The MC will let you know when it will be absolutely not acceptable to take photographs. If you would like a dancer to pose for you outside the arena, always introduce yourself and ask permission. If you are a professional photographer or artist and feel you may use the image in the future for a commercial project, tell the dancer. Make sure it is OK with him or her.

Be flexible. Above anything else, Native American powwows are social events. The schedule of events changes often so get ready to slow down and have a good time! It’s your chance to see old friends and make new ones. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and engage in conversation with vendors, dancers, singers and other powwow participants.