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What is a Pow Wow?

Indigenous peoples have been gathering since time immemorial but gathering and ceremonies were ruled illegal under the Indian Act. Contemporary Pow Wows are occasions for nations, families, and friends to gather, celebrate, dance, share news and trade. Drumming accompanies different dance styles like the Jingle Dress dance, Fancy Shawl, Traditional, Grass. The dancer’s Regalia reflects their dance style and is often lovingly created with help from the community or passed on from generations.

For more information, visit the Ryerson Library’s Pow Wow Guide page.

Pow Wow Protocol

  • The Grand Entry is the official opening of the Pow Wow, often lead by veterans, Flag Carriers and Head Dancers. As a sign of respect, standing and removing hats is the protocol during this opening (unless one’s ability or mobility is preventative).
  • The Master of Ceremonies or M.C. helps run the Gathering by announcing singers, drummers, and dancers. They conduct the Gathering, provide historical significance of each dance, and will notify attendees of Honour Songs that require standing.
  • Regalia is the clothing that dancers wear. It is not a costume. Regalia is often spiritually or historically significant: either handed down through generations, handmade by family members, or meticulously crafted by the individual. Never touch someones Regalia. Regalia has deep personal and ceremonial significance.
  • The Drums provide the heartbeat of a Gathering. Some drums have traditions that dictate when and where they can be played, while “Drums” can also refer to the group of performers. Do not attempt to play or touch without permission.
  • Photographs of the dances are generally permissible, however one should never take a close-up photo of a dancer without first asking. If in doubt, find an organizer and ask. If a sacred event is taking place, the MC will announce that photos are not permitted.
  • Sound recordings of the drums require permission from the performers.
    Some songs are also sacred and should not be audio recorded without permission.
  • Alcohol and Substance use is strictly forbidden. Pow Wows are sacred and sober events.
  • No pets are allowed on the Powwow grounds. Service animals are to remain leashed.


Additional Resources