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Pow Wow etiquette: come participate and learn...respectfully

While the Pow Wow is free and open to the public, organizers encourage attendees to be respectful and adhere to proper pow wow etiquette.

Estela Hernandez  •  April 2, 2018

The Inter-Tribal Student Association (ITSA) is pleased to announce its 46th Annual University of Utah’s Pow Wow, on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7, 2018 in the Union Ballroom. This year the committee decided to create awareness around the widespread problem facing women in our community, with the theme “In Honor of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.”

“Historically, for many tribes, women are the heart and backbone our communities,” said Kassaundra John, first year student at the U and co-chair for the Pow Wow organizing committee. “From the colonization to present day, we have become the targets for murder.”

Though there is very little official collection of data on current missing and murdered indigenous women, many families recount stories of missing family members.

Pow Wow participants and spectators are asked to wear red for the 6pm Grand Entry on Saturday, April 7th, as a way to show solidarity and spread awareness to this epidemic, and to celebrate and honor the women who continue to keep tribal traditions alive.

The University of Utah’s annual Pow Wow will continue to be a celebration of life, community and spirituality. It is an important event to Indigenous peoples within our community and surrounding areas that bring communities together and for people to renew unity with family & friends through ceremonial song and dance.

Another very important aspect of the Pow Wow is that it helps bridge the gap between the Indigenous peoples and the non-native people of Salt Lake. The U’s Pow Wow provides an opportunity for the local community to learn about the culture of Indigenous American people.

As we join, learn and participate in the Pow Wow this weekend, we should make every effort to engage with this traditional event with respect. Below is a list that will help to inform your visit to this beautiful and important event:

  1. Always stand respectfully during special songs. These include the Grand Entry, flag songs, veteran’s songs or any other song the MC designates. During these songs, folks should remove their hats.
  2. The correct term for a dancer’s outfit is regalia – not costume. Never touch a dancer’s regalia. Many of the ornaments have religious meaning and are cherished family heirlooms.
  3. Ask permission before taking photos of dancers in regalia. If the photo is for publication or commercial use, this should be explained before the photo is taken.
  4. If you see a lost or dropped feather, do NOT pick it up. Notify the nearest staff member (identified by Pow Wow t-shirt) or Arena Director immediately.
  5. Pointing with the fingers is considered poor manners by some tribes. If you must point, use your head and nod in the direction you wish to indicate.
  6. Feel free to join in the inter-tribal dances by invitation of the MC.
  7. Do not ever cross the arena floor! Do not go into drum circles. If a drum group is singing or about to sing, do not approach the drum. Stay on the perimeter of the arena floor.

During the entire event, pay attention to the MC for announcements. This person will give information about the type of dances and songs as they transpire. The MC will also be important in announcing audience participation.

The most important thing to remember is that the Pow Wows are meant to be social events. Make a new friend, eat some food, visit the vendors and have a great time! If you have any doubts or questions about the above etiquette or would like to know more, feel free to contact a member of ITSA, the Arena director, or a staff member. Most dancers, singers, elders and staff are also happy to help.

For more information on the 2018 University of Utah Pow Wow schedule, please visit diversity.utah.edu/powwow.

Culture  EDI  Social Justice  

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