HoMe PaGe

Powwow

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The word “pow wow” is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning "spiritual leader". The term itself has different variants including Powaw, Pawaw, Powah and Pawau. A number of different tribes claim to have held the “first” pow wow. Initially, public dances that most resemble what we now know as pow wows were most common in the Great Plains region of the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when the United States government fragmented many Native communities in the hopes of acquiring land for economic exploitation. In 1923, Charles Burke, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the United States, passed legislation modeled on Circular 1665, which he published in 1921, that limited the times of the year in which Native Americans could practice traditional dance, which he deemed as directly threatening the Christian religion. However, many Native communities continued to gather together in secret to practice their cultures’ dance and music, in defiance of this, and other, legislation. By the mid-nineteenth century, pow wows were also being held in the Great Lakes region.

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