"The Pow Wow Trail" by Julia White

Be Comfortable

A Pow Wow is no place to dress to impress. You will impress no one and you will be miserable and grouchy, and sorry you came.

The best time to go to a Pow Wow is around 3 P.M. on Saturday, and plan to stay late. By then, the competition will be in full swing and you will see the most outstanding dancers. There is a supper break in the late afternoon/early evening which will give you time to shop at the vendor booths circling the arena. You will also get to see the second Grand Entry which is usually shortly after the break, and which signals the beginning of the night session.

Pow Wows are held inside in parts of the country where weather is tricky. It is also getting more and more popular to have Pow Wows on church grounds, at college campuses, and various other locations in cities. The primary considerations in deciding whether or not to have a gathering in or near a city are cost of the location, insurance, a large enough area for the arena and surrounding booths, sufficient parking to handle the crowds, and a spot where the traffic, noise and late hours will not create a problem with the neighborhood residents. If there is mutual cooperation on all sides, Pow Wows in cities can be excellent events.

However, most Pow Wows are held in the country away from the conveniences we all take for granted. Many of the Pow Wow grounds are dry, which means what it says: there is no water. These tips will help you to get the most pleasure from your experience, and passes along things I have learned from just being there, and "doing it".

  1. If you're in a hurry, don't go. When you enter the grounds (sometimes called "stomp" grounds), you're on "Indian time". Forget clocks, time and schedules. Be in the moment in every sense of the word.

  2. Take water, water and more water; some to drink yourself, some to share with someone who may not have any, and some to keep yourself cool. Take an old rag or washcloth in a container with a small amount of water to keep it wet so you can wipe your hands and face. Be aware of your body temperature, and don't get overheated. I have seen people very ill from heat exhaustion because they were not properly prepared. This is an unnecessary risk to take, and now you will know how to avoid the problem.

  3. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that does not bind. Be conservative. A Pow Wow is really not the appropriate place to wear your skimpiest mini-skirt, or the shortest shorts you own, or your scanty Bikini top.

  4. Remember that you're going to be walking on uneven ground that is dusty. You're also going to be weaving your way through crowds of people. Wear comfortable walking shoes or sneakers that give your feet some support, and that will protect your toes if you're stepped on.

  5. Be sure your children are dressed the same way. Cute sunsuits lead to terrible sunburns, and little sandals invite bruised toes, twisted ankles and rock bruises. Take a hat to protect their head and face when the sun gets high. If your child is a toddler or younger, take the stroller. Be sure children know where the announcer's booth is. If you should get separated, tell them to go to the announcer and ask him to call you over the loudspeaker system. Don't panic -- you just can't see them.

  6. Take folding beach chairs to sit on and, if you have an umbrella you can attach to the chair, wonderful. There is little to no natural shade around the arena, and you will welcome that umbrella. Stake out your spot outside the hay bales or arena markers and plant your chair. Be aware of the reserved areas we will discuss in "Protocol" to come. Don't be rude and sit in someone else's chair, or in a spot that is marked with someone else's belongings.

  7. Take a hat for yourself, and sunscreen for everyone. There is often little shelter, and the sun can be merciless. The temperatures can get extreme. Now, don't wimp out. Look at what the dancers are wearing, and the heat they're dancing in. They don't have summer light regalia!!

  8. Take toilet paper. Yes, I'm serious. There are portable toilets on the grounds, but if there is a large crowd, the toilet paper won't last long. Find the portables early so that, when the need arises, you'll know where they are. If the crowd is a large one, you know there'll be lines. Be sure you give yourself enough time to make it.

  9. Take sweaters for everyone, and a flashlight. Once the sun goes down, it gets cool and, after the heat of the day, it's easy to catch a chill. Just be properly prepared. It also gets very dark because most of the light comes from portable lighting in the immediate vicinity of the arena and the vendor booths. A good flashlight will keep you from stepping in holes, or tripping, or otherwise stumbling around.

  10. If you're on a special diet, or will only eat a particular kind of food, take it with you. There are food vendors who sell a variety of food which is cooked fresh on the spot. This is the place to try an Indian Taco, or Indian Fry Bread, or any of the other Native foods offered. It is all wonderful, but not for special diets. A cooler with your own food and soft drinks will ease your mind.

  11. If you take your pet, be sure it stays on a leash or, if you take a bird, tether it. Many vendors and Pow Wow participants travel with large dogs, most of them wolf hybrids, both for their personal safety and to protect the many valuable things they carry. You don't want your pet involved in a confrontation! Also, if you take your pet, be considerate of others and take your pooper scooper as well to clean up any messes it may make.

  12. Some Pow Wows have camp grounds, space for RV and trailer hook-ups, and cooking pits. This is the perfect opportunity to take your motor home or camper or any other type of RV that's on wheels. The promotional flyers usually mention whether or not camping is permitted. If they don't, call the number given and ask. It is common for tents to be pitched around the grounds, but the earth may not be solid enough for a motor home. Don't assume ----Ask before you go.

  13. If you plan to stay overnight in a motel, be wise and plan ahead. The nearest town may be miles away, and their accommodations may be very limited. Rooms will be scarce because of people coming into the area for the event, both participants and visitors. If you are not familiar with the surroundings, call the nearest Chamber of Commerce, or get yourself a motel directory, and find out for sure what's available. Make Reservations.

  • "The Pow Wow Trail"

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