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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

History of the Pow-wow

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 White Mountain Apache

Save the Peaks!

 Merriam Report


The Poncas were the first to practice the ceremony that led to today's pow-wow. The Poncas called it the Hethuska, which began around 1804. They passed this ceremony to the Kaw, and the Kaw in turn gave the dance to the Osage, who named it the Inlonschka. The next tribe to incorporate this ceremony was the Omaha, who passed the ceremony to the Lakota (Sioux) tribe. It seemed to become popular in the late 1890's. During this time, the Omaha, or "Grass" dance as it was then called, spread quickly. Unlike ceremonial dances of other tribes, the Grass dancers danced for the purpose of dancing itself, instead of a religious ceremony.

In the 1920's, some pow-wows became inter-tribal, meaning that they were open for all tribes to attend, and the practice of "contesting" began. World War II brought a revival to the pow-wow world, and ever since pow-wows have been growing, constantly changing and adapting to modern ways, while retaining their cultural roots. Brighter colors, more motions and new styles of dance have emerged from the early times. The Native American culture is not dead and fixed under the glass of a museum, but instead it is a living culture, retaining it heritage and advancing with the times as evidenced by the pow-wow.

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