POW WOW : birds of a feather


It might not be a completely unfamiliar sight for someone living in the US. After all, the native American culture was here first. And despite the not so bright and friendly first encounter with the colonizers, the Indian culture has survived.

But how much do we know about these tribes and their cultures? I thought that attending a Pow Wow might throw some light on it.

The term Pow Wow is derived from the Narragansett language, meaning ‘spiritual leader’ but is generally used for a gathering of native North-American people. Although originally meant for native people only, these gatherings are open to everybody. Not only are they meant to keep their traditions alive but also to divulge their culture and let others take part in it.

This particular gathering was held on the grounds of the former Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn.

The onlookers form a big circle and wait for the master of ceremony to start the event with a prayer. Then comes what’s called the Grand Entry with all the dancers walking the circle on the beat of the opening song.

After this opening ceremony the dance competition starts. Groups or individuals in different categories bring specific dances. The music and dance seem simple but answer to very strict rules. Women, men and children are dressed in the most colorful regalia. Never make the mistake to call it ‘costumes’. Men often don crowns of eagle feathers. Woman add to the frantic rhythm of the drums with the metal jingles sown to their dresses.

The main atmosphere of the event is very relaxed and has the feel of a great family picnic. But in spite of the lively colors and entrancing rhythm of the music, the whole performance seems to be serious business. Every dancer’s face shows a severe and even stoic expression.

We all know this stereotypical image of an Indian sitting on his black and white horse on top of a rock overlooking a valley. His face is emotionless, maybe a little bit cold. But it’s exactly that kind of look that I saw on the face of these dancers. A look of wisdom and experience. A kind of composure that seems to collide with the pace of their movements and the vivid colors of their attire. I think we can call it pride.



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2 thoughts on “POW WOW : birds of a feather

  1. Nice photos. I just recently shot a powwow and really enjoyed it. Come check them out on my blog if you get a chance.

  2. marc says:

    although some of the participants are (probably) only half Indian, or 1/8th or even 1/16th, they all seem very proud of their Indian heritage

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