- from Native America
It’s quiet. A single drum beats.
One strong, high voice joins the drum. Then other singers add their voices. One by one, to the beat of the music, the dancers enter the circular arbor, or dance area. First men, then women, then young people with toddlers. They form a spinning spiral of colorful feathers and fringes, jingling ankle bells, and tinkling dresses. This is the Grand Entry. It’s the opening ceremony of a powwow.
Powwow means “spiritual healer," or “medicine man." It comes from an Algonquian language. Healers often sang to the beat of a drum or a rattle during ceremonies. English settlers thought the word meant an event, not a person. In English, powwow came to mean a meeting of important people. In the late nineteenth century, Native Americans started holding celebrations of their heritage. They called them powwows. They were based around traditional dances.
At powwows, dancers compete in various categories. These include grass dances, jingle dances, and fancy dances. Today’s powwows are more than just dance contests. They’re a reunion of family and friends. They’re also lots of fun.