A pow wow is a gathering of Indian Nations in a common circle of friendship.
A pow wow usually begins with a Grand Entry of the dancers. All participantsdance into the circle in their respective categories, led into the arena by a tribal elder or veteran carrying a staff of eagle feathers. The eagle feather staff is the universal symbol and “flag” of Indian people throughout North America. When all dancers are in the circle in their respective categories, a flag song or the national anthem of the Indian people is sung, followed by an invocation by a tribal elder. Then the dance begins with intertribal dancing. This is a time when all dancers, competing or not, can “strut their stuff” displaying their best dancing abilities.
The dance competition for women and men is broken down by age group and dance style. These include for men, the traditional, fancy, grass, and most recently, chicken dances; and the women, the traditional, fancy shawl, and jingle dress dances. The “traditional” dance style can sometimes be separated or combined into a Northern and Southern dance style. Age categories include: Golden, Adult, Teens, Juniors, and sometimes Tiny Tots.
Competition dancers, as with any competitive sport, must be in good physical condition. Bicycling, running, and going to the gym are some of the ways top dancers keep in shape. The final rounds of competition on the second or third day of a pow wow require good form and great stamina.