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U.S. National Pow Wow Honors American and Canadian Indigenous Peoples

Updated on August 20, 2020
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.

Pow Wow Grand Entrance, USA National Pow Wow of 2005.
Pow Wow Grand Entrance, USA National Pow Wow of 2005. | Source

National Powwow exists to respectfully share in the values of American Indian culture. We strive to educate ourselves and increase awareness of American Indian traditions among the non-Indian community with the support and guidance of Indian people.

— National Powwow website

Reconstruction of the Body and Mind

The National Pow Wow is a cultural tradition, so-named only since 1996. Although its management and venue have changed hands more than once, it brings Indigenous Peoples and their descendants from all around America and Canada.

I visited Washington DC as a youth in 1969. On the National Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I witnessed the demonstrations and the dancing with the rest of the hushed crowds around the memorial and Reflecting Pond.

Among our Native North American languages in Canada and USA, the translation for "soldier", "warrior", "protector" and "helper" are all the same word in each particular indigenous language.

A 19-year old buzz-cut U.S. Marine in full dress uniform stepped forward and spoke about defending his country and his principles in Vietnam, stepped away, and returned in full Southwest Native American Fancy Dance regalia to perform. We were stunned. He was my hero that day.

They - The People - come together to celebrate their heritage, their languages, their customs, their dances, drumming and music; and their reverence for Nature. They dance with confidence and share Native foods and folklore with everyone that attends.

Reconstruct the Body

Reconstruct the Mind

Reconstruct the Spirit

Leave the rest behind.

— Native American Song "It will Be So"

New Pow Wow Location

For several years since the 1960s, the national event has continued to take place at a spot where the new National Museum of the American Indian opened on the National Mall in late 2005.

A second national pow wow emerged in Danville, Indiana. Its organizers state that they have held such a pow wow once every three years since 1969.

The Iroquois Nations once spread throughout New York, parts of Pennsylvania and Southern Ohio, trickling down the Appalachians. Cherokee Nation long ago broke away from the Mohawks and migrated to the Carolinas.
The Iroquois Nations once spread throughout New York, parts of Pennsylvania and Southern Ohio, trickling down the Appalachians. Cherokee Nation long ago broke away from the Mohawks and migrated to the Carolinas. | Source

Pow Wows For Native Veterans

Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Thunder

We have Pow Wows locally in Ohio -- in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, the Dayton and Springfield area and others; but none of them are as large as the National Pow Wow.

Local Pow Wows are often held on Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September, in order to honor not only Native Peoples as veterans and workers, but all of America and her various cultures coming together to appreciate our servicemen and servicewomen

US Native Americans are over-represented in the military; post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have hit the Navajo hard.

— The UK; 9-6-2011

National Pow Wow, Washington DC 2007

In August 2007, the National Pow Wow featured Native American US Soldiers from the War in Iraq. In Iraq, they had built a ceremonial drum from the bedding tarp of a cot and a 55-gallon oil drum. They drummed in the desert and called their drum Desert Thunder. to go along with Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They brought it to the Pow Wow for a special performance honoring all the military men and women of the US who are in Iraq and other foreign nations.

The surviving Code Talkers of several tribal nations from World War II gave a speech and presentation. No one could break their codes for the US Government during the war - not the Japanese, not the Germans, not the Italians, not the Russians - no Allied or Axis nation's peoples could break it.

A special recognition presentation and ceremony was also held for all Native Americans past and present who served in the Armed Forces.

Despite a past popular belief that Native Americans are all alcoholics, they allow no drugs, alcohol or smoking - even tobacco - on or around the National Pow Wow premises.

National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa, Ontario
National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa, Ontario | Source

Native Veterans of the Western Hemisphere

  • A Tribute To Native American Veterans
  • First Nations Veterans Memorial

    This is a fitting and deserved tribute to all of our country's Indigenous Peoples that serves in the military, including the Code Talkers.

  • NNAVA National Home Page

    The National Native American Veterans Association will strive to assist the families of Native American Veterans. Assistance will be given in obtaining Veteran Rights, Entitlements, and Benefits without regard to Tribal Affiliation, branch of the Arm

Traditional Fancy Dancers

Hoop Dance. Performance from a 2001 pow wow.
Hoop Dance. Performance from a 2001 pow wow.

Native North Americans in History

Famous Native Americans remembered at the Pow Wow and in the National Museum of the American Indian.

Jim Thorpe was a famous Native American from the Sac and Fox nations. At his vocational high school, he trained in track and field and football under the legendary Pop Warner. Thorpe was later an Olympic athlete, winning Olympic Gold Medals in both the pentathlon (5 events) and decathlon (10 different events) in the 1912 Olympics in Sweden.

He was penalized for playing semi-pro baseball before the Olympic Games, because having accepted payment for any sports participation cancelled out anyone eligibility for the Olympics at that time. Other athletes got around this rule by playing baseball and other sports for pay under false names. The AAU decided that Thorpe should lose his medals.

The AAU and the Olympic Committee took back his medals in 1912 and did not return them to him after his death in 1953, but not until 1982, a full 70 years later. He had played major league baseball from 1913 - 1919 and professional football form 1920 - 1926 and again in 1928. The Associated Press chose him as Athlete of the Half Century in 1950.

Actor Jay Silverheels, of the Mohawk Nation (Iroquois), was born the son of a chief on the Six Nations Indian reservation in Ontario, Canada. He trained to become a professional lacrosse player, lacrosse being an indigenous sport for many Native American nations.

He later became a stuntman and then an actor, finally winning the role of Tonto, the Lone Ranger's friend. He was the first Native American actor to play an Indian on TV.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell is a Northern Cheyenne chief and a US Senator from Colorado through 2004. He nearly always attends the National Pow Wow. Like Jim Thorpe, Campbell has also been an athlete - a U.S. Judo Olympic champion three times.

Actor Graham Greene of the Oneida Nation (Iroquois) has been in the movies Dances with Wolves and The Green Mile and CBC TV's The New Red Green Show. Like Jay Silverheels, he was also born on the Six Nations Indian reservation in Ontario.

Pro wrestler Flying Don Eagle was a Mohawk war chief born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. He moved to Columbus, Ohio to perform on TV's Big Time Wrestling in the 1960s and he trained other indigenous wrestlers.

Will Rogers was an American humorist whom everyone assumed to be a cowboy. He was a 1/4-blood Cherokee born in the Oologah Indian Territory (Oologah, Oklahoma) in 1879. He was on a par with Mark Twain in his humor and stage presence and he made a few films, including A Connecticut Yankee in 1931.

Women's Smoke Dance

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An Apache dancer, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nestell served at 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
An Apache dancer, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nestell served at 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
An Apache dancer, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nestell served at 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment on Ramstein Air Base, Germany. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


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