Arena and Staff*
Drum and Song*
The arena is where most of a pow wow takes place--it includes the actual circle where the dancers dance as well as the area containing the M.C. and benches. The arena can be anywhere from inside a gymnasium to preferrably under the sky. The setting is usually dependant on the season and weather, with summer dances held outside and winter ones inside.
The most important part of any arena is the Drum, which includes the instument as well as the singers. The Host Drum, or Head Drum, is placed in the middle of the arena, a place of respect, and all other invited drums are allowed, at the disretion of the Arena Director, to set up around the outside of the dance floor. In the outdoors, the drum is placed under an arbor made of four upright posts with tree branches and leaves lashed on the top to form a roof which protects the drum from the direct rays of the sun.
The Emcee's table is also centerpoint in the arena, not only because it holds the master-of-ceremonies, but because it is where give-aways are arranged and announcements are posted. Since pow wows are not usually publicized, those who go to pow wows rely on flyers that give information and directions to the next week's dance. To the side of the Emcee's table is where the colors (flags) are posted and retrieved at the beginning and end of each dance session. The colors are very important to the Native Americans, who value veterans very highly. Usually the flag of the United States, Canada or Mexico, an eagle staff, and the flag of a branch of military service are carried in and posted. The eagle staff, a curved staff about five or six feet in height with eagle feathers attached, serves as the flag for Native Americans. Princesses from visiting tribes and organizations are seated by the Emcee's table as well.
Around the dance arena are several benches, sometimes in a few rows. These benches serve as seating for dancers only, who reserve their seat or bench with their personal blanket, which is often a beautiful heavy wool design made by Pendelton. A dancer's family will sit behind the bench in lawn chairs.
Outside the circle of benches, or sometimes in a separate tent, the traders set up their booths. This is sometimes the highlight for many visitors, who find the arts, crafts, and supplies that they sell very appealing. Prices at pow wows are almost always lower than anywhere else, and a person can often bargain with a trader and his prices.
Click on the imagemap or text links below to see a photograph of the corresponding area of an arena. Use the "BACK" key to return to this page.
The Master-of-Ceremonies, or the Emcee (M.C.) for short, is the one person who is responsible for setting the tempo for a pow wow. He serves as the person who decides which dance is held when, how long they may go on, announces events, but more importantly, tells jokes. Anyone may run a pow wow, but it takes someone special to tell the jokes and remarks that Emcees are famous for. Many of the jokes are geared towards Native Americans and may be difficult for outsiders to understand. (What is the scaredest thing in the world? An eagle flying over Rosebud!), but the majority are for the general public, such as references to the comical action of a dancer or about weather conditions. ( Man, it's so hot Joanna Goodfeather is going to take off and fly the way she's fanning herself!) These jokes are important in keeping the flow of a dance, because without them, or if they are poorly done, the pow wow may drag, and cause people to leave. The main purpose of an Emcee is to get the dance alive and moving by keeping everyone in good spirits.
The Arena Director
The Arena Director is the keeper of the circle, the man who ensures alll of the functions of the pow wow flow smoothly. It is his responsiblity to make sure that all of the dancers and, especially the drum, receive water when they are hot, that the arena remains clean from pollution and trash, and that people who disrupt the dance are escorted out. All items that are dropped by a dancer in the arena are picked up by the Arena Director and those items are his to keep, although he may give them back for a small monetary gift given by the person who dropped it to be forgiven for the mistake.
The Head Singer
The Head Singer is the individual who is in charge with providing the songs for a pow wow, which is a very imporant and revered duty. The Head Singer will ask people he usually sings with to accompany him on the the drum, and may invite others he knows at the pow wow to sing if he feels they will help. Often a Host Drum will be invited instead of one Head Singer, and then the lead singer of that drum assumes the duties of the Head Singer, which includes leading songs, speaking for the drum, and receiving and splitting up any gifts that the drum receives in their Special.
Head Man and Head Lady
The Head Man and Head Lady Dancers are respected dancers that are asked to serve as the model for all other dancers. They are the first people to dance in a song, and no other person is allowed to dance until they do. This is a position of great respect and usually requires a give away in return for being asked to perform the duties of Head Man and Lady. In addition, at larger pow wows, the positions of Head Jr. Man and Lady, and Head Little Man and Lady may be added.
Native American princesses are not true princesses in the European sense of the relationship, but are instead closer to ambassadors. Princesses are usually elected annually by different tribes and organizations so that the young ladies, usually age 15 to 20, may travel across the country to other pow wows spreading the name of her tribe or organization. Princesses are given sashes that bear their name and their organiztion's name to help with this task, as well as a beautifully beaded crown to designate their royalty. Princesses are given special priviledges that include being some of the first people to enter the arena in a Grand Entry, and receiving a chair next to the Emcee's table.
The Committe is the group of people from an organization who decide the most important aspects of a pow wow, such as finances, selection of Head Staff, location, date, and activities. The task is often overwheming and it takes many people to do this successfully.
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