Powwows can be traced back to pre-European times when Plains Indians used dance to honor tribal members, recognize important events, and seek protection for warriors and hunters. Today, powwows can be everything from a family reunion to a religious ceremony depending on the individual and tribe. They have also become an important way for Indians to keep their culture and traditions alive
Part of the pageantry of the dancing comes from the elaborate outfits regalia the dancers wear. The various styles of dress originate from either ceremonial or societal functions of the past and are always unique to the individual dancer. Most of the dancers’ regalia is handmade and often include precious family heirlooms. Male dancers usually wear leggings and a breechcloth decorated with ribbons and beadwork, topped by breastplate of bones and beads worn across the dancer’s chest. A bustle made from feathers trails down the male dancers’ backs
Women usually wear dresses decorated with elk teeth or shells, as well as beaded moccasins, leggings, belts, and braid ties.
Drumming and singing accompanies all dancing. The drumbeat is sacred and represents the heart beat of the Indian people. Each pounding note carries songs to the Great Spirit allowing the people’s prayers to be heard. Because of their religious significance, drums are never left unattended.