American Indian Education Program

Monthly Newsletter - May 2021

Boozhoo District 196 Teachers!

This month's Indian Education Newsletter will focus on Powwows.

All photos were taken by renowned Anishinaabe photographer: Nedahness Rose Greene (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe); to view more of Ms. Greene's work, please visit her Instagram.

Ojibwe: Niimiwin / Everyone Dance ...... Dakota: Wacipi / They All Dance

Pow Wows are Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones. Powwows are one of the best ways to experience Native American culture. At a Pow Wow you can experience dancing, singing, foods, and crafts. (From:


The Master of Ceremonies - Jerry Dearly

"Jerry Dearly is in high-demand as an emcee on the powwow circuit. The Minneapolis-based Lakota elder and educator is originally from Pine Ridge and started his career singing with song and drum groups. Dearly’s humor and bilingual Lakota-English announcing skills make him a popular emcee." From South Dakota's Public Broadcasting's Dakota Life by Samantha Dlugosh.

At the powwow, the MC runs the events. The MC works with the Arena Director to keep the powwow organized and running smoothly. These two individuals along with the committee work hard to bring the people together to dance and fellowship together in the circle. (

The Drum

Powwows feature distinct music that is recognized by many as the central, unifying feature of these culturally meaningful gatherings. Powwows commonly feature three or more drum groups, also referred to as Drums, each one comprised of five or more singers who strike a large drum in unison. The drum groups take turns performing songs for the powwow, with the type of song determined by the purpose of the dance (e.g., an intertribal social dance to which everyone can dance, a competition dance for a specific style of dance, or a flag, honor or healing song as requested by a powwow organizer or attendee).

In most cases, powwow drums are only struck by men, with women serving in a supportive capacity, standing behind the seated men and joining in singing at particular points in the song. (From: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Many songs are still sung in Native American Languages either newly composed or revivals of old songs. These songs are reminders to the Indian people of their old ways and rich heritage. (From:

More Resources:

Midnight Express

Northern Cree perform at the Grammy's

Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center - The Drum to the Lakota

Documentary on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians (the drum/music is discussed at the 11:42 mark in the documentary)

Jingle Dress

"Throughout Indian Country, women and girls don their Jingle Dresses and mesmerize powwows as they move lightly, kicking out their heels and bouncing to the drumbeat. The dresses – also known as Prayer Dresses – are lined with rows and rows of metal cones, or ziibaaska’iganan, traditionally made from rolled up snuff can lids and hung from the dress. The cones create another melody as the dancers move, mimicking the sound of falling rain and bringing a sense of peace to the whole endeavor.

The dance itself began just over a century ago when the granddaughter of an Ojibwe medicine man fell sick. As the man slept he dreamt, over and over, of four women as his spirit guides wearing Jingle Dresses and dancing. The women taught the man how to make the dress, what songs to play, and how to perform the dance. The spirits told him that making the dress and performing the dance would make his granddaughter well.

When the man awoke he set out and made the dress, and once completed the tribe gathered to watch the ill girl dance. At first, she was too weak and had to be supported and carried by the tribe. Slowly she gained her strength and performed the dance on her own, cured of her sickness."

- GON Powwow Video

- National Congress of American Indians

- Google Doodle: Celebrating the Ojibwe Jingle Dress

- Healing Through Dance (U of M)

- Pure Love on the Dance Floor: Celebrating the Jingle Dress Tradition

Regalia is definitely not a costume. A costume is something you wear when you dress up and pretend to be someone or something else — like for Halloween. But regalia represents not only the dancer’s personality, but their history, family and culture as well.

Regalia .... NOT COSTUMES

From Running Strong for American Indian Youth:

Powwow regalia is a powerful mode of self-expression that blends historical and modern dress. Worn with responsibility and pride, the clothing represents community traditions and personal tastes.

A dancer’s powwow outfit is a collection of items that reflect their lives, interests, and family background. Many wear garments that are family heirlooms or gifts crafted by family members. They incorporate a variety of modern elements and materials, from T-shirts and pins to Walmart moccasins. These ensembles evolve over time, reflecting changes in the dancer’s life and in the fashion of time.

Powwow dances not only reflect American Indian identity through the renewal of tradition, but also individual identities within the community.