Powwow Etiquette

By Ivy Vainio

The UW-Superior powwow is open to the entire community, so please encourage your friends and family members to attend!  This is a great cultural experience for everyone to be a part of.

Several staff, faculty and students who are attending a powwow for their first time have asked about whether there is anything they should know in advance about how to be respectful at a powwow.

Powwows are fun, but there are a few tips for newbies that might be helpful -- the singularly most important one is this: The emcee/announcer is a professional and if you listen carefully to him you'll have a great time without needing to worry too much about etiquette.
The emcee will let the audience know when photography is okay.  There are some songs that you can't take photos so listen to the emcee.  Be respectful of someone that you want to take a photo of up-close - ask first.  But feel free to take photos of the dancers/dance arena during intertribal songs.

  • Visitors are welcome to enter the Dance Circle during Intertribal dances (other dances are only for specific dancers in regalia). The emcee will announce which dances are intertribal and tell you when visitors are permitted to enter the Circle and join in the dancing. Don't be shy, don't worry about what you look like, and please encourage your kids to join in when the intertribal is announced. If in doubt, ask.  You don't need to be in a powwow outfit to dance an intertribal song.
  • Dancers wear regalia or traditional dance outfits that are made up of sacred items and sometimes are passed down from one generation to the next. Regalia should never be called a "costume."
  • The Feast is for everyone to enjoy and is free! Typically dancers and elders will be served first. For any lines you're in, pay attention to whether an elder is behind you and invite them to move to the front.
  • Powwows are a lot of fun for children and there is plenty of space for them to run and play outside. But please make sure children don't treat the Dance Circle as a playground. Random walking, running or playing in the Dance Circle should be avoided.  Be aware of where your children are.

If you should have any other questions please stop by the emcee stand and ask the emcee.  Don't worry if you come after the Grand Entry part of the powwow.  It's an amazing experience though so you don't want to miss it.  Come and go as you like.
Enjoy yourself and be respectful!  These are just a few things that I could think of. 

Miigwech/Thank you!

Gary Johnson


Patser Lynch


Circle of Native Nations