Powwow etiquette

Powwows are cultural, family events where all are welcome. Powwows are not spectacles, rather they are community events rooted in Indigenous culture and identity. Indigenous library staff recommend the following ways to respectfully participate in this important tradition. 

Being in community

  • Respect elders at all times. 
  • If any food or meals are served or offered, elders should be served first. 


  • Never refer to Native dress or regalia as a “costume.” 
  • Do not touch the regalia of another person, especially feathers.


  • The seats closest to the arena are reserved for dancers, singers and elders, so please don’t sit in them.
  • Be mindful of the space; families often reserve seats with their own chairs, blankets, canopies, and personal items — these are not to be removed, touched or occupied.

Dancing and the Grand Entry

  • The dance arena features a circle, which is usually blessed and reserved for the dancers. Do not walk across it.
  • All powwows begin with a Grand Entry, where all dancers enter the circle, led by the veterans and head dancers. During this time, please stand up and refrain from talking or eating. Remove hats (unless traditional headwear, hats with eagle feathers, or regalia). 
  • An “Inter-tribal” dance is a special dance that invites all to join in and dance together inside the arena circle. You may choose to join in despite not wearing any regalia. 
  • Enjoy the music and dance!

General information

  • If you want to know more about a dancer, group, dance style or regalia, respectfully ask that dancer or performer when they are not otherwise engaged in dances or powwow activities.
  • Listen to the emcee for directions throughout the activities, there may be a change in schedule, so be ready to go with the flow.
  • Refrain from taking pictures unless given permission. Many singers and dancers will allow you to take pictures with them but be sure to ask first. The emcee will announce when recordings are allowed. 
  • Respect the rules of the powwow, including: no alcohol or drugs, and many times no dogs or pets allowed.
  • Be respectful of family honorings, memorials, or other ceremonies that may happen throughout the event.

Most importantly, have fun!