Skip to main content

Pow wow : the Regalias

By 17 July 2017Blog

The Pow Wow geographical circuit originated in the southern United States in Pawnee and Dakota territories, ascending northward to Sioux and Cree lands, and then spreading to the Ojibwa of the southern Great Lakes, the Eastern Nations, including Quebec. From the origin, in the Southern Plains, some claim that “grass dancing” is one of the first dances to have been presented in the competitive form that is known to it. It would originate from the Warrior Society Dance.

This dance performed by men is a fast and rhythmic dance. The regalia that is worn during this performance requires few feathers; It is rather porcupine quills that are worn in the headdress decorated with two feathers, as well as fringes, ribbons, embroideries and beaded pieces. Several other dances are presented during the competitions and each one requires that the regalia be made according to the meaning of these dances. Some require a shawl, bells or bird wings.

To participate in these competitions, an apprenticeship is necessary and is given by a veteran (elder having the knowledge surrounding the preparation, the dance, the making of a regalia). The making of a regalia is a sacred step of the process and it is “strongly” advised that each competitor participates mainly in the elaboration of each of the pieces that will constitute his regalia, be it the embroidered pieces, beaded, sewn, even for men. Once the regalia has been completed, participants can add pieces to magnify it. Ornaments that count thousands of beads and embroidery stitches can sometimes take months to make. Finally, as the regalia is one with its participant, as a second skin, and is the main tool to perform in a Pow Wow, which is also a step towards healing, it is formally forbidden to sell one’s regalia.

As for the making of spiritual objects that are meant to honour our Mother Earth and the Creator such as drums, rattles, traditional incense sticks (sage, cedar, sweet grass tresses), a state Spirit of peace, respect and love is required in making one’s regalia. Veterans often proceed to purify with sage before dispensing their teachings and assisting their students in the elaboration of their regalia.

For spectators, the rules are clear regarding regalia carried by competitors. First, it is forbidden to touch the participant as well as the pieces of his regalia, feathers and ornaments. This constitutes a serious offence. In addition, if a participant loses a piece of his regalia during his performance, people from the assistance must not enter the dance circle to pick it up. It is advised to notify a Pow Wow organizer who will know exactly how to help the competitor.

To be continued next week!