Before Reservations, indigenous North American Indian peoples lived in small bands or settlements. At certain times of the year these small groups and bands came together to celebrate annual hunts and harvests, along with other tribal ceremonies. These gatherings were social events, with dancing, games, horse racing, storytelling, visiting and sharing of news and experiences, often lasting for one or more weeks.
Today, these annual gatherings are known as PowWows. A continuing tradition, they provide a way for people to meet and join in the festivities, renewing friendships and making new ones. As well as the competition dancing, there are social dances for everyone, including for children under the age of 6.
In modern times, tribal dancing has become a specialized art, and dancers participate in competitions at many powwows during the spring and summer season. Competitions are organized for various age levels and dance styles and include men and women's Traditional Dance, Jingle Dress Dance and Fancy Shawl Dance for women, and Men's Grass Dance and Men's Fancy Dance.
One of the most beautiful experiences is the Grand Entry, which begins each session. Led by color guards and dignitaries, all of the dancers enter the arena by dance style and age group.
The annual gathering is also often a time for ceremonies – naming ceremonies, honoring ceremonies and various types of remembrances, which happen throughout the weekend.
Although powwows are open to everyone, there is etiquette to follow if you attend. Be respectful, particularly if you don't understand what is going on. All tribal people look forward to PowWow, and it is a time of great excitement, especially for the children, so avoid intrusions that might spoil the occasion. If you are curious about something, you must always seek permission first to ask a question – and always ask before you take any pictures or record videos. Remember that alcohol and drugs are absolutely not allowed – many Reservations are dry and security is often tight.
Accommodations are difficult to find at PowWow time. You may camp or park your RV or trailer free of charge around the powwow grounds and also in the closed RV park nearby (it has no services). You may also choose from one of the many motels in surrounding communities.
Lower Brule welcomes visitors and should you choose to come for PowWow, we hope you enjoy yourselves and have a memorable stay.
Click here to download our PowWow poster. On it you will find the events schedule and details relating to the Dance Competitions, Rodeo and Horseracing Contests, the Softball Tournament, the Parade and other social events.