Pow wows have been a part of American Indian culture since time immemorial, representing spiritual connection, healing and tradition. Each pow wow presents something unique to the hosting tribe, while offering traditional drum and dance competitions.
One aspect of the pow wow circuit that those in attendance should be aware of are the varieties of dances on display and how to distinguish them from one another.
For the next several days, ICTMN will run through each of the six styles—Fancy Shawl, Grass, Jingle, Men’s Fancy, and Men’s and Women’s Traditional—with a brief description of each and an example.
The Grass Dance is believed to have originated with the Omaha Tribe. All stories of the dance point to it being ceremonial. In the South, some tribes believe it was connected to a warrior society and that scalps were tied to the dancers’ clothing to celebrate victory in battle.
The northern tribes believe it is a blessing ceremony for new ground. The dancers trample the grass down in preparation for a village and grass is tied to the dancer. As the dancer moves, the fringe attached to his outfit sways as if to simulate the natural movement of tall prairie grass.
The dance is said to represent the balance of life. The dancer must perform the same move on either the right or left. The dancer’s regalia is covered with yarn and ribbons that sway, and he wears a lot of color.