Below is a list and description of several items, words, and terms that are unique to pow wows. Many contain pictures and sound files, so feel free to explore any listing further by clicking on the provided link.
Bandoliers are long strings of bone hairpipe and beads that are worn on the body from the shoulder across the chest to the opposite hip. Most dancers (straight and traditional) may wear one or two. There are many different styles of bandoliers available,
and materials can vary slightly, such as having mescal beans or rifle casings instead of bone hairpipe. Beadwork
Beadwork is the art of putting beads on practically anything, and is an age old tradition that began with wampum beads made from conch shells before the arrival of Columbus. When traders arrived in the Americas, they brought with them beautiful glass bead
s from France, Italy, and Bohemia (Czech Republic) to trade with the natives. Native Americans learned how to apply these very small beads to their possessions, and this task has evolved into an artform. For more information regarding beadwork, see t
he different types: Lazy Stitch,Applique, loom stitch,and Peyote stitch .Breastplate Picture
The breastplate is an assortment of thin hollowed out bones that are strung together in rows and hung from the neck for protection. Originally they were shorter but today they often reach a dancer's waist or knees. Over time they have become more decorati
on than anything else. Today breastplates are part of several dance styles.
Buckskin DanceBustle Traditional Bustles---Fancy Bustles
Bustles are arrangements of feathers that are worn on the body. Originally, bustles were worn by only a few honored dancers, but as time progressed, they became part of the Traditional and Fancy Dance Outfits. Fancy dancers can use turkey, hawk, and eag
le feathers to make the twin bustles they wear. If they are making their bustles in the "Oklahoma" style, multi-colored hackle feathers are attached to the main feathers to produce the rows of colors. Traditionals almost always use eagle feathers to make
bustles. An all-tail feather bustle is very sought after, but mixtures of tail and wing and all-wing are still very beautiful. Bustles can be decorated with horsehair, angora fur, eagle fluffs, and white leather spots.Clackers
Clackers, or simply "toes," are sets of deer toes that have been sewn onto a band of leather and tied around the ankles or legs. These can be used instead of bells and produce a nice sounding rattle. Contesting picture of a Traditional Contest
"Contesting" is the practice of competing for prizes and recognition against other dancers. Depending on the pow wow and the category, prizes may reach as high as $1500 for first place. Every category is determined by dance style (like Straight or Fancy
) and age. Age grouping typically is tiny tots, 0-5; little boys/girls, 5-12; junior boys/girls, 12-16; senior, 16+. Contesting began sometime around 1920 and is largely responsible for the success of modern pow wows.Dance Staff A picture of beaded dance staffs.
A dance staff is a long "stick" held in one hand by many dancers as they dance. It may be decorated with beadwork, feathers, and colored tape and often has objects attached to it, such as an eagle 's foot or head, a bull's horn or antlers. The decoration
of the staff is entirely left up to the dancer. The staff is related in history to the coup stick, a staff carried into battle by many tribes. It was considered a greater honor to be able to strike an enemy with a coup stick and return safely than to k
ill him.Drop picture
A drop is a part of the regalia of the Straight Dancer that hangs down the back and touches the floor. Depending on the tribe, it can be made of an otter hide or from several brass or German silver conchos strung together. The Osage use the otter drop,
because they believe that water animals, such as the otter, would give them protection. Therefore, the head of the otter is left on so that he might watch over the dancer's back.Fans
In the Pow Wow sense, a fan is a group of feathers a person can use to fan themselves with. There are several different varieties, including flat fan, wing fan, and loose fan. A flat fan is made usually from the tail feathers of an eagle, a wing fan is m
ade either from the entire wing outside of the knuckle or of a few wing feathers, and a loose fan is made from an assortment of eagle, hawk or macaw feathers that are bound loosely on a beaded base. See the Jan. 97 Craft Article for
much more info!Fancy DanceFancy Shawl DanceGarters picture
Fingerwoven garters are a part of the Straight Dancer. They are sashes that are woven in many different colors and patterns to match the person's outfit and worn at the waist and just below the knees.Grand Entry
The Grand Entry is the first dance of a pow wow, used bring in the dancers. It is lead by the color guard, made up of veterans, who carry in the American flag and others that are present (eagle staff, state flag, Canadian, Mexican flag). It is then foll
owed by the Head Man and Lady, followed by the Princesses and then the other dance styles by category. The Grand Entry goes around the circle and loops until everyone is in the arena and then stops for the Flag SongGourd DanceHead Man and LadyGrass DanceIntertribals
Intertribal refers to dances or songs that belong to no one particular tribe. Most intertribal songs do not have words sung in them, but instead have vocables. Intertribal dances have become very popular in this century because the
y draw larger crowds, since everyone is invited.Jingle DanceLazy Stitch Picture of lazy stitch on a vest--Beaded traditional set
Lazy Stitch is the primary method of applying beads to a large area in a short amount of time. The most common sizes of beads used are 11/0 to 13/0, which are very small for people new to beadwork. The beads are attached by sewing rows of about 7 to 1
0 beads on at a time so that each row is placed next to a row that is identical to it. These rows make up larger rows that are stacked on top of each other, that look like an endless sea of lumps. It is rare to see very large pieces beaded, and those
objects that are are usually admired greatly. This type of beadwork makes up most of the beadwork in Buckskin and Traditional outfits. See he Feb 97 Craft Article for info!Loom Stitch Picture of a loomed belt
Loom Beadwork gets its name from the loom that is used to make it. Loom beadwork produces very uniform beadwork and that can be eaily made in strips. It is common to see belts made in this way.Moccasins Picture of beaded moccasins
Moccasins are the traditional footwear of many Native American tribes. Although in the past there were many styles, the predominant style today is that of the Plains tribes, because it has a hard sole that stands up to the rigors of several months of har
d dancing. Moccasins can be beaded or quilled, and are sometimes left plain.
Pendleton Pendleton is a brand name of wool blanket made by Pendleton Woolen Mills that is often used in covering dancer's benches and as giveaway items. Pendletons rang
e in size from crib blankets to Queen size, and come in several very beautiful designs. These blankets are expensive (about $100 for the average full blanket) and seen as symbol of affluence. Peyote Stitch Picture of Peyoted Staffs
Peyote Stitch is often called round stitch or gourd stitch. It derives these names because it was originally used to bead the round gourd rattles of the Peyote ceremony in the Native American Church. It is a difficult stitch to master, and uses very sma
ll beads, anywhere from 13/0 to 22/0 in size. It is beaded one bead at a time, each bead being placed in between two others.Push
A "push," is a name given to one complete verse in a song. It begins with the lead, second, verse, honor beats, and second refrain. A song usually consists of four "pushes," each being identical. Sometimes in the interest of time, an Emcee will limit the
number of pushes in a song. For more information on songs, go to the Drum and Song Page.Ribbonwork detailed picture of ribbonwork---Another good picture
Ribbonwork is the art of sewing together several ribbons together to make a pattern. Ribbonwork can be worn on any style, but it is especially important to Southern Straight Dance and Southern Cloth. The ribbons that are used are made of a satin or taffe
ta and are creased, folded, and sewn together. This art was perfected by the Osage and Ponca.Roach picture of a roach
A roach, in the pow wow sense, is a type of headress made from tied porcupine and deer hair. Usually there are several rows of each hair tied onto a woven base so that the hairs will stand upright and move gracefully with the movement of the dancer. The
deer hair is placed outside of the longer porcupine hair and may be dyed to match the regalia of the person who is wearing it. They are held on a dancer's head either with a scalp lock, a braided piece of hair, which is brought up through a hole in the t
he middle of the base and then run through with a roach pin, or with shoestrings that are attached to the roach pin and tied around the head. Although historically roaches were only made about 12 to 15 inches in length, today longer r
oaches are in style, varying from 18 to 22 inches, normally. Occasionally some are seen up to 36 inches. Roaches are the most common form of headress found at modern pow wows and can be worn by all of the men's dance styles. The roach is held open with
a spreader can be decorated with scalp feathers .Roach Pin picture on a roach
A roach pin is a dowel that holds a roach in place. It is usually about 12 inches long and about 1/2 inch in diameter and decorated with colored tape , ribbons, and Peyote stitch beadwork. A Traditional Dancer's pin may have several
eagle fluffs tied horizontally on the end. Most roach pins have small feathers that hang off the pin that should bounce around as the dancer dances.
Round Dance fancy dancers in a round Dance---Traditionals in a round Dance
A Round Dance, or Social Dance, is usually held at the beginning of a pow wow session. Dancers form a large circle in the arena, each dancer staying with other dancers of their dance style. A song is sung with a heavy 1-2-1 pattern and the
dancers move laterally around the arena. The faster styles, like Fancy and Traditional, dance closer to the drum, and the slower ladies dance near the edge of the arena using a slower foot pattern. Usually Round dances are sung in sets of three or four
Scalp feathers are feathers (or sometimes one feather) that is tied in the hair at the base of the roach. They many be decorated with fluffs, pieces of fur, metal spots, and cuts into the feather. Spreader picture on roach
A Spreader is a piece of rawhide, bone, or silver that is fashioned to hold open a roach. It is cut according to how its wearer wants his roach to look. A large spreader will flatten a roach in the Lakota style, and a very small spr
eader will cause a roach to stand almost vertically in the Ponca style. A rawhide spreader is almost always decorated with colored tape, beadwork, or quillwork. In the middle of the spreader are one or two sockets that contain eagle ta
il feathers that are attached by a cut pull-chain that allows them to move gracefully. A Straight dancer will usually have one socket and a Traditional and Grass dancer will have two. The exception to this is a variation for Grass dancers that has two lon
g wires with fluffs on the end and a Fancy Dancer "rocker" spreader, that has a centerpiece with two feathers on it that rocks back and forth between two rubber bands very rapidly.
See illustration below.
picture of the first two couples in a two step
The Two-Step seen at pow wows certainly can't be mistaken for the Texas Two-Step, but is none-the-less a fun event for everyone. The Two-Step is one of the few dances where a man and lady are allowed to touch one another, and is much like a follow-the-le
ader dance. The first couple is always the Head Man and Head Lady, who are followed by other couples who wish to join. Any person, whether dressed in regalia or not, is invited to participate. The twist to the Two-Step is that the lady is the person wh
o usually asks a man to dance, and if he refuses, he must give at least $5 to the woman who asked him. Two Steps can become very intricate and complex, depending on who leads them, and are danced to a rythm much like a Round dance.Vocable
A vocable is a non-language sound that carries the melody. In the words place, syllables such as "Ah Hey Yah Ho" can be used, but "Yo Hey" can be sung many ways. Often entire songs are written in this way to make learning and singing them easier for peop
le who do not speak the language of the song.