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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Ask PowWows.com Really basic questions Really basic questions

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Old 11-16-2015, 05:22 PM   #1
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Really basic questions

Ok, who is up for some really stupid questions? I think I have a lot of them!

I've read the FAQ on powwow etiquette and I'm trying to figure out the basic layout of how a powwow works. First thing I'm confused on: There is a mention about not sitting on the benches around the arena, which are reserved for dancers. Will this be obvious? I mean, like if there are bleachers or something, are those considered benches? Or are powwows outside on flat ground, so I would just bring a chair?

If it's just kind of open seating, aka plant myself in a chair...are there certain areas I should avoid? Obviously I would not put myself IN the arena, or blocking the way in, or something. At least on purpose. I don't want to diminish anyone's enjoyment of the powwow by doing something inadvertently that is irritating to anyone. :)

Thank you for reading! I appreciate any insights you can share!
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:18 PM   #2
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bring your own chair and sit in it.
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Old 11-16-2015, 07:34 PM   #3
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If you take a few minutes when you first approach the dance area to hang back and take a good look around. You will discern a general pattern. In my experience, almost all powwows have roughly four areas. The circle where the dancers and drums are. This is surrounded by a ring of spectators. The whole lot is often surrounded by vendors and food stands. Then there's the bunch snagging in the parking lot, LOL.

The spectators' area has roughly two areas. A close ring of family and friends. There is a lot of action (and usually a lot of regalia, luggage and kids) in this area. Then there a group further back who are watching but usually not dancing.

Generally, it is good form if you're not dancing, not to sit too close to the circle. Folks who are dancing need to be nearer. Unless, I'm with family or friends who are dancing I sit myself no nearer than the middle of the bleachers or to the back of the arbor if there is one.

Blankets, shawls, coats or such are often used to mark spots. If there is a blanket over the spot or a shawl hanging on the back of the bleacher seat, it is taken. Move on.

Obviously, if it is a BYOC (bring you own chair) don't park your bottom in any chair you didn't bring:) To be safe, buy one of those folding chairs in a bag and keep it in your trunk. No chair, no problem.

A reasonable rule of thumb is don't crowd around the drum. If you're not dancing or singing you probably don't need to be there.
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Last edited by OLChemist; 12-22-2018 at 03:50 PM..
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:47 PM   #4
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Pray tell, who is snagging in the parking lot? LMAO
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Old 11-18-2015, 01:46 AM   #5
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Thanks for the answers! That gives me a good mental picture. I have one of those fold up chairs somewhere so I will plan to bring it along. I figured right up at the front would be for the dancers and participants so I'll head farther out.

Are there other kind of rules, or I guess social conventions? Like, is it pretty informal, or are there times when it would be rude to get up and wander around the vendors area?

The guys drumming - is that the singing also? I hear the words singing/drumming used and I'm not sure if that is two different things. (I told you these were really basic questions!).

Thank you again for listening to my questions!
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Old 11-18-2015, 11:21 PM   #6
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Obviously, be clean and sober when you attend.

Stand during grand entry or any other time the MC says so.

Follow the AD and MC's instructions.

Don't turn and walk out during prayers, flag or honor songs.

Don't touch people's regalia. Powwow not petting zoo.

Don't photograph folks without their permission.

Wear a modest outfit. Cover your upper arms. No excessively low necklines. No bare midriffs. No short shorts. Wear sensible shoes, the grounds can be rough.

Refrain from pointing.

Bring a couple purse packs of Kleenex. Trust me, you'll be glad you did, LOL.

Buy some fry bread, corn soup, meat pies, pozole, milkweed soup, buffalo burger, wojapi, sofkee, grape dumplings or whatever traditional food you can get.

Have fun.
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Old 12-02-2015, 03:17 AM   #7
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Thank you OLChemist! I'm writing these down to keep track of them. Very good advice. Sounds like good manners will be a good starting point! :) I won't go up and pet anyone, haha. That you have to point that out makes me think that has happened...good grief!

I would love to try some traditional foods so I will be on the look out for that.

I found out my cousin's husband is Native! He is part of a tribe in Washington state so I'm hoping I can maybe go with my cousin and him to a powwow. Always more fun to go someplace with somebody. Of course it is dreary wet winter here so I'm thinking maybe the spring will be when some powwows might be held.
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post

No excessively low necklines. No bare midriffs. No short shorts.

Have fun.
@OLChemist, you just took the fun out of it all!
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