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The 10 Biggest Pow Wows in Indian Country

The 10 Biggest Powwows in Indian Country

Powwow season is almost upon us.

Warm weather brings out drum groups, singers, dancers and the beloved Indian taco stands. The United States hosts hundreds of powwows every year, but which ones draw in the largest crowds? Going by the number of spectators, Indian Country Today lists the 10 largest gatherings in the United States.

10. Thunderbird Powwow

Queens, New York (July 25-27)

New York City’s oldest and largest pow wow brings out around 4,000 people per day and has around 180 dancers. It takes place at the Queens Country Farm Museum, the only working historical farm in New York City, and this year will be their 36th annual pow wow.

9. Eastern Shoshone Indian Days

Fort Washakie, Wyoming (June 27-29)

As the largest pow wow in Wyoming, Eastern Shoshone Indian Days has been around for 55 years. The powwow averages around 4,000 people, but at least 1,800 Natives show up to dance. They host more than 30 drum groups, and the event opens up with an all-Indian parade. Throughout the weekend the tribe offers a feast, as well as softball, golf and basketball tournaments. The pow wow also coincides with a neighboring rodeo.

8. Hart of the West Powwow

Santa Clarita Valley Signal

New Hall, California (September 27-28)

Los Angeles County’s largest powwow, Hart of the West gets around 5,000 people a day visiting the Hart Park and Museum. While not a contest pow wow, Hart of the West does do a princess competition and estimates that between 140 -200 dancers show up every year. It is known for keeping with Native values and traditions, and is embraced by California’s Chumash and Tatavium people.

7. Red Earth Festival

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (June 5-7)

Red Earth averages 8,400 attendees a day and last year’s pow wow had 312 dancers. This year is the 28th time the festival will be held and it is seeing some changes. Red Earth will again parade in full regalia through downtown Oklahoma, but instead of a full competition pow wow, Red Earth will just host a fancy dance competition.

6. Stanford Powwow

Stanford, California (May 9-11)

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Easily the largest of the college powwows, Stanford University sees 10,000 visitors a day and 250 dancers for their annual Mother’s Day weekend event. This is the university’s 43rd year hosting the event and it is entirely run by students who are part of the Stanford American Indian Organization, which was created in 1972 to abolish the “Stanford Indian” mascot.

5. JulyamshPost Falls, Idaho (July 25-27)

The largest outdoor pow wow in the Northwest, Julyamsh is hosted every year by the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort. They average about 10,000 people a day, and see between 600 and 800 dancers. Julyamsh also plays host to 55 drum groups. This is the 20th time they are holding the event and plan to start it with their annual horse parade in full regalia.

4. Choctaw Labor Day Festival and Pow Wow

Tvska Homma, Oklahoma (August 28-31)

During the Labor Day Weekend, the Choctaw Labor Day Festival and Pow Wow draws an average of 12,500 people a day. On average, 120 dancers come to the tribal grounds to compete. Nearby are three lakes that offer fishing, boating and camping. This is the 67th year for the event that will see a fine arts show, concerts, a princess pageant, cultural demonstrations, stickball games and a carnival.

3. Denver March Powwow

Denver, Colorado (March 21-23)

With an average of 13,750 guests a day, and about 1,200 dancers, Denver March is a massive event. It holds the international record for most drum groups at a single pow wow (73) and has been featured in both the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. This year will be their 40th annual event. They will be partnering on Friday the 21st with the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce for their 11th annual Indian Biz Expo, and with Native Max Magazine for a fashion show featuring both traditional and modern looks.

Courtesy Denver March Pow Wow

A young performer at the Denver March Pow Wow

2. Cherokee National Holiday Powwow

Tahlequah, Oklahoma (August 29-31)

The Cherokee National Holiday Powwow plays host to about 16,000 people a day and around 200 dancers competing for $35,000 in prize money. This is just a portion of the 100,000 plus people who make the journey to Tahlequah every year to celebrate the Cherokee culture and to commemorate the signing of the 1839 Cherokee constitution. The nation’s holiday also coincides with the annual State of the Nation address from the Cherokee Principal Chief. This is the 62nd year for the festival.

1. Gathering of Nations

Courtesy Gathering of Nations

The grand entry at the Gathering of Nations pow wow.

Albuquerque, New Mexico (April 24-26)

The Gathering of Nations sees 85,000 visitors each day, and more than 3,000 dancers. A new Miss Indian World is crowned every year and serves as a goodwill ambassador for all indigenous people. The pow wow is so large that it even has its own year-round radio station on iHeartRadio called, of course, Gathering of Nations Internet Radio. This year will be the 31st time the gathering is held.