Powwow Nation

Powwows have served American Indian communities in bringing people together for decades. During the cultural revitalization of the 1960s, these gatherings allowed for different communities to come together to share ideas, customs, and company. National and regional powwows alike have provided time and spaces in which American Indians can gain a sense of traditional values and share their own heritage amongst each other. They are a form of expression as well as a form of activism, especially during the cultural revitalization period of the mid-20th century.

Powwows also serve another purpose of educating; education of values and traditions. This sharing of information and customs is not limited to American Indian cultures, however. In fact, many non-Indians have attended these gatherings and it is part of the National Powwow organization to increase outside awareness of American Indian communities.[1] With this awareness comes the realization that these communities are still living, breathing entities.

Powwows seem to have been common at least in the areas I have lived after graduating high school. During my senior year of undergraduate school, a local powwow group visited the university to demonstrate their music, dances, and tradition. Despite being a weekend activity, there was a great turn-out among the students and faculty. The group that came was the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation from Perrysburg, Ohio, lead by Jamie Oxendine. After demonstrating several of their traditional forms of dancing and musical instruments—such as the double flute played by Oxendine—people from the university community were encouraged to ask questions and participate in the dances.

By providing an accepting, interactive space, and expecting the same acceptance and participation in return, the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation was able to reach out to another community to share their stories and heritage. I have not seen or heard of any powwows being advertised publicly while in New York. Although I realize that the gathering at my university was unique in its intimate nature, powwows in New York by some of the federally recognized groups seem more rare than in those enacted in the Midwest by smaller groups and I can’t help but ask “why?”


[1] National Powwow. Mission Statement. Accessed 9 May 2011. http://www.nationalpowwow.com/about-2/

One thought on “Powwow Nation

  1. We appreciate your post about pow wows and the community benefits and unity they can bring. We agree that exposing other cultures to Native culture brings understanding and recognition that is much needed throughout this country.

    National Relief Charities works with programs on over 75 American Indian reservations through the northern Plains and Southest. We’d like to invite you to follow our blog for National Relief Charities at http://www.blog.nrcprograms.org.
    And thanks again for your post.

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