Native Americans * American Indian languages * American Indian culture

  * Find Native American ancestors in your family tree

Pow Wow Trail 97 [archive]

This article has been archived from the Aboriginal Youth Network for educational purposes. Contents are the property of AYN; the article was written in 1997 and is no longer available on their website. Please visit our Article Archive Index for further information. If you are the author of this article and would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, please contact us.

Pow Wow Trail 97

The gathering, or mawiomi renews social, spiritual ties

What is a Pow Wow?

Pow Wow is the more recognized word, European in origin, for a tribal gathering. The Micmac word is mawiomi.

The gatherings continue to be a time for renewing social and spiritual ties. Great respect is shown to the drum at a gathering. Tobacco is offered to the spirits called by the drum and to the spirit of the drum itself.

One reason for this respect is that the songs sung to the beats of the drum have the power to unite people. Songs become an important part of a tribe's oral tradition.

Another reason is that the music made using the drum is an individual and universal language of the soul. The first song an unborn child hears in its mother's womb is the rythmic beating of her heart. In a sense, the drum is the heartbeat of a powwow.

Like the songs, the dances at a powwow have different social meanings. There are festive dances, dances of war and conquest, honor and family, joy and mourning. The dances might have had different meanings in the past, but they have evolved to become the social dances of today.

Many Aboriginals practicing the traditional way of life believe that nature and Aboriginal peoples spoke the same laguage. A common belief is that the Creator gave a uniqueness and power to each tribe. Each tribe also enjoyed a very respectful and harmonious relationship with nature as a guide and provider.

The relationship with the Creator was pure, and its strength was at its peak, being both visible and audible through the voices of nature. In times of need, Aboriginal people prayed, fasted, sweated and sacrificed. Prayers were answered through the voices of nature, thus establishing the Spirit of Nature and man as one.

This explains the reasoning behind the clan system and its respect for the balance of nature. Each clan, as is the case in nature, has a function, has a function and responsibility within the nation. Noth nation and clan affiliation can be seen in color combinations, design and ornaments.

Numbers were also very important in respect to nature and the aboriginal way of life. The number four is held sacred by most tribes in respect to the Creator and the four cardinal directions of the cross. The cross has always been synonymous with the Great Spirit even before the first Christian missionaries came to North America, and Aboriginal peoples refer to it as the medicine wheel.

The spirit of power is held sacred in the combination of certain colors, designs and numbers. Eventually, songs and dances evolved from sacred natural forces and the imitation of animals. Many of these sacred dances, because of their religious significance and spirituality are not performed in public. The Sun, Eagle, Buffalo, and Medicine Dances are just a few of the many sacred dances still practiced.

Any sacred object of a ceremony of power should not be brought out, or even discussed, in public. War, medicine and protection can also be included in this, with grave consequences if respect is not kept.

When early European explorers first saw these sacred dances, they thought powwow referred to the whole dance. Actually, its Aboriginal definition refers to the medicine people and spiritual leaders. As more Aboriginal peoples learned English, they accepted the European definition.

Conflicts over hunting territories were controlled by medicine people and spiritual leaders. Ceremonies of preparation protected and guided warriors. Inspiring songs, warrior speeches and war dances were performed. When going into war, the leaders were distinguished by the paint they wore and the numbers and color markings on their feathers.

There was mutual honor and respect, even for the enemy. It is said that in taking the life of the enemy. It is said that taking the life of the enemy, one captures his spirit. It is still believed that this spirit belongs to the victor, along with its power. In the physical world, the victor feeds the victim's spirit until guided into the spirit world.

Upon the return of the warriors, feasts for the captured and mourned spirits were held, and victory dances were performed. In the dances, brave deeds during battle were reenacted reminiscent of tracking the enemy. From this early interpretation came the origin of the war dance in its spiritual form of expression, demonstrated through footwork, smoothness and agility.

Additional Reading

 Indian Tribes of North America
 Micmac
 Micmac Education
 Micmac Legends
 Indian Reservations in Maine

Sponsored Links



Return to our main Amerind site
Read our article submission guidelines
Language of the day: Native American Signs

Native Languages

Indian art * Mexican Indians * Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma * Jenu * Native medicine

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?