Pow Wow Summer Guide: Plains/Midwest


Summer is nearly here, which means the pow wow season is about to really heat up. That’s why we’ve put together a simplified guide for any pow wow lovin’ guy or gal out there who may want to fire up the car, throw the kids in the backseat, and pin a road map on the dash (it’s more romantic to imagine it that way, GPS device be damned) and blaze the perfect pow wow trail. We’ve broken the country up into six regions, but by no means is this list comprehensive—the modern pow wow schedule is so varied and stimulating that it would take many more pages (and staff members!) to come up with anything that could even begin to capture the breadth of the upcoming pow wow offerings. This is merely a quick peek at a few pow wows that caught our eye, and that might, should you attend, sooth your soul.

So come for a ride down both coasts, across the often-great plains, over those majestic mountains and into the desert—no matter where you may roam, there’s likely a pow wow you’ll want to attend.

The 11th Annual Tesoro Indian Market & Powwow will be held May 14-15 at the Historic Fort in Morrison in Colorado. More than 40 award-winning American Indian artists demonstrate their art in a juried fine arts show, but the real beauty of this market is that the artists hold impromptu demonstrations throughout the event, showing visitors how they do what they do. Meanwhile, in the valley below the fort, fancy shawl, grass and jingle dancers vie for prizes in the contest pow wow. For more information, call 303-839-1671 or visit TesoroCulturalCenter.org.

One of the largest urban pow wows in the world, the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festivalis having its silver anniversary this year at the Cox Convention Center from June 3-5 in downtown Oklahoma City. More than 1,200 American Indian artists and dancers from all across the country gather to celebrate the “richness and diversity of their heritage with the world,” as RedEarth.org puts it. Not only is Red Earth an epicenter for indigenous art, it’s also one of the SITE OF great dance competitions in the world, offering a rare glimpse of both northern and southern tribes dancing in one venue. The event kicks off with the massive grand parade as downtown Oklahoma City comes alive with vivid colors and songs as more than 100 tribes in full regalia make their way through the city. For more information, visit RedEarth.org.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas is hosting their 43rd Annual Powwow from June 3-4 in Livingston, Texas at the Indian Reservation Ballpark. MC Vernon “Cy” Ahtone, Kiowa, will lead the festivities, while the host northern drum is Dry Creek, from Elton, Louisiana and the host southern drum is the Wild Band of Comanches, from Lawton, Oklahoma. There will be a men’s grass dance special contest by the Wildcat Society, and a women’s jingle dress dance in honor of Savanna Poncho. For more information, contact Sharon Miller at 936-563-1131 or visit Ac-Tribe.com. Returning to the Centennial State, the Ninth Annual Sky Ute Casino Contest Pow-Wow is at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, Colorado from June 10-12. With more than $40,000 in prizes for pow wow and drum contests, as well as the Miss Indian Colorado Pageant, the Sky Ute Casino Contest Pow-Wow is a huge event. This is high-altitude pow wow action (more than 6,500 feet above sea level), with MC Marty Pinnecoose leading the dancers, from men’s and women’s jingle and fancy to the teen switch contest. For more information, visit SkyUteCasino.com.

The 113th Arlee Celebration on the Arlee pow wow grounds in Arlee, Montana goes from June 30-July 4, and is one of the oldest pow wows in the country. Starting with “Camp Day,” participants begin erecting their encampments for the weekend, and that night memorial ceremonies are held for those who have passed away since the previous year’s gathering. July 1 is “Old Style Day,” during which the old styles of dress and dancing are on display, followed by the grand entry on Friday, which marks the start of competition dancing. For more information, call 406-275-2727 or visit ArleePowwow.com.

Things heat up even more in Montana in the month of August—the 93rd Annual Crow Fair in Crow Agency (located off of I-90, use exit 509 or 510) takes place from August 18-22. The Crow Fair is a massive five-day celebration held by the Apsáalooke Nation—it is possibly the largest pow wow and American Indian encampment in the world. Near where Custer had his infamous last stand, this event is often called the “Teepee capital of the world” thanks to the approximately 1,500 teepees in the encampment during the week of celebration. With daily parades, Indian-cowboy rodeos, daily horse racing (including Indian-relay horse races), and evening pow wow grand entries, the Crow Fair is a don’t-miss event for any serious pow wow fan. For more information, visit Crow-Fair.com.

The Eastern Shoshone of the Wind River Reservation, located on Fort Washakie in south central Wyoming (located off of I-287), fill their summer with events. The Indian Days Powwow & Rodeois held July 15-17, the Crowheart Traditional Pow Wowtakes place August 19-21, and the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Fair is on August 26-28. For more information, visit EasternShoshone.net.

With more than 70 tribes, 30 drum groups and 1,500 dancers converging on the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota from September 8-11, the 42nd Annual United Tribes International Powwowis an ideal way to end the summer pow wow season. Nearly 80 tribes from across the country (and even South America) come to the Lone Star Arena on the school’s campus, and we think you should, too. For more information, visit UnitedTribesPowwow.com.