Summer is nearly here, which means the pow wow season is about to really heat up. That’s why we’ve put together a simplified guide for any pow wow lovin’ guy or gal out there who may want to fire up the car, throw the kids in the backseat, and pin a road map on the dash (it’s more romantic to imagine it that way, GPS device be damned) and blaze the perfect pow wow trail. We’ve broken the country up into six regions, but by no means is this list comprehensive—the modern pow wow schedule is so varied and stimulating that it would take many more pages (and staff members!) to come up with anything that could even begin to capture the breadth of the upcoming pow wow offerings. This is merely a quick peek at a few pow wows that caught our eye, and that might, should you attend, sooth your soul.
So come for a ride down both coasts, across the often-great plains, over those majestic mountains and into the desert—no matter where you may roam, there’s likely a pow wow you’ll want to attend.
May is a big month in the Southeast for pow wows, and it’s front-loaded with a lot of events that first weekend. The 20th Annual Mother’s Day Native American Pow Wow at Withlacoochee Park, in Dade City, Florida will be held May 6-8. Gates open on Friday morning at nine a.m. and events will include drumming, storytelling and flute playing by Doc Green. This pow wow will also showcase famous Florida artists like Rex Begaye, Diné, and Paul DeLuna, Apache. For more information, call 352-583-3388 or visit MothersDayPowWow.embarqspace.com.
On May 6 the Lumbee Spring Pow Wow kicks off at the Southeastern Farmer’s Market in Lumberton, North Carolina. It is a celebration not only of the Lumbee and Southeastern tribes, but also of tribes from the West, Canada and even Central America. The competition here is fierce, with big money prizes for the drum competition and special events like the Three-Plus Man hand drum jam and the Dial Family Grass Special. The Meskwaki Nation and Otter Trail will be your host drums for the event, keeping the beat alive. For more information go to LumbeeTribe.com.
In Georgia, the 22nd Cherokee County Indian Festival & Mother’s Day Pow Wow will be held May 7-8 in Canton. There will be iron-man dance competitions, arts and crafts, drums, Aztec dancers, archery, blowgun demonstrations, South American scissor dancers, hoop dancers, a living Cree encampment and more. Roasted corn, Pima wraps and buffalo meat will be some of the culinary temptations. For more information, visit RThunder.com.
Continuing with this big weekend for getting your pow wow on, also May 7-8 is the 18th Annual Choctaw-Apache Traditional Pow Wow in Zwolle, Louisiana on the Zwolle festival grounds. The tribe invites one and all to celebrate its 2,500-plus member cultural roots. Tribes from across the country travel to the banks of the Toledo Bend in Zwolle to attend this pow wow that includes gourd dancing as well as various other dance and drum competitions. For more information, visit Choctaw-Apache.org.
From the bayou to the state that is, rumor has it, for lovers, the 20th Annual Native American Heritage Festival takes place May 14 in Occoneechee State Park in Virginia. The grand entry starts at noon, with Clark Stewart emceeing and the Turtleclan Singers and Youghtanund taking up drums. Occoneechee State Park is a great place to enjoy a pow wow, since it also has a lake, horseback trails and a Native American museum. For more information, call 434-374-2210.
Heading back to Georgia in late May, there is the American Indian Festival in Lawrenceville, which runs from May 28-30 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. The gates open on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., with the grand entry at one p.m. MC Ray Silva will be leading the crowd through a day of dancing, drumming, storytelling, flute playing and poetry. For more information, visit VitWind.com.
From June 10-12, the Manataka Powwow at the Bald Mountain Park and Campgrounds in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas takes place. With free camping, this is an ideal pow wow to spend some quality time outdoors. Along with dancing and drumming, there will be a wildlife show, a tipi village, storytelling and lots of great food. For more information, visit Manataka.org.
The Strong Sun Pow Wow gets under way from July 8-10 at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, North Carolina. The Nuluti Equani Ehi Tribe (translated from Cherokee, the name means “Near River Dwellers”), celebrate this pow wow as the major event of the state’s Native American Cultural Weekend. There will be honoring ceremonies for veterans on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m., with special guests the Triad Memorial Honor Guard and Grey Wolf Band Memorial Honor Guard. For more information, visit NearRiverDwellers.com.
Staying in North Carolina, the Festival of Native Peoples & Cherokee Art Market will be held August 26-27, at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds, near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Indigenous tribes from across the Americas gather for what many consider the finest showcase of Native dance, song and art in the southeast. The popular Totonac Pole Flyers of Mexico will be back with their 90-foot poles and flying colors honoring the sun, as well as four-time hoop dancing champion Tony Duncan, Apache/Arikara. You’ll also get to see Tezcatlipoca Aztec Dancers from Mexico City, the Pollen Trail Navajo dancers, the Yurapik Dance Group of Alaska, and the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers form Arizona to name just a few of the many highlights here. For more information, visit Cherokee-nc.com.
Closing out the season, there is the 17th Annual Coushatta Pow Wow from October 28-30(in Kinder, Louisiana), one of the largest pow wows in the country. The grand entry is, indeed, grand as the dancers claim the dancing gourd while the tribal drums and singers play them along. At the Pow Wow Marketplace you’ll find handmade crafts such as the famous Coushatta handwoven pine needle baskets. The stomp dance, both a social and religious step common to the Southeast tribes, is a key component of the Coushatta Pow Wow, where dancers move in a counterclockwise circle with men being followed by women with their skirts and turtle shakers. For more information, visit CoushattaPowwow.com.