After the US & Canadian government prohibitions of any religious practice, and the conversions carried out by the churches (of all kinds) using more or less brutal constraint, the return of the « Indianness » at the beginning of this third millennium is obvious.
If many of the native people have left the reserves to share the virtues of capitalism with the whites, there are many who are concerned about protecting their environment from the western greed and who are seeking to maintain their heritage and their ancestral beliefs.
Since the important events of Standing Rock (before the demonstration of the Sioux against the pipeline project of almost 1 900 km, which would allow the transport nearly 500,000 barrels of shale oil each day, crossing their land and sacred sites, the Obama Administration had rejected the controversial project. Donald Trump, who is a shareholder, as are our banks, in the company in charge of the project has decided to give the project the go ahead) we know that the Amerindian nations must fight to preserve their sacred sites and their places of worship. They must also demonstrate a vigilance and a constant determination to keep the major symbols of their spiritual existence.
We have seen that the symbol of the circle holds a place of importance in Native beliefs. The men and the women, individual expressions of the forces in the world move and nourish themselves in life with a circular movement or uninterrupted spiral. This circle is often designated as the medicine wheel.
Everything in existence is related to other things. Everything is « living » (animals, trees, plants, stones, … the wind,). Everything has a « mission » and charged with « powers ». Life is a « sacred act ».
The Native American have the belief that they are spiritually linked to the Creator and to the spirit of the world and the conception of their culture is based on only spirituality. In fact, their entire life is structured by customs and rules of conduct. Constantly they must pay tribute to supernatural powers and respect the nature that surrounds them. Their world is not inanimate, it lives, it acts. A tree is not only a form of plant, the Native American sees behind it a power belonging, like him, in the natural order of the universe.
For the Native American nature is his temple, his Bible. The myths are his theology. They are considered the incarnation of the sacred truths of its people. The Myths define the special link which binds them to the earth and demonstrates that they are not only born of Mother Earth, but also for the Mother Earth.
In their eyes the mountains, lakes, rivers, the springs, the valleys and the woods are a perfect beauty. The winds, rain, snow, sun, day, night, the seasons are objects of infinite fascination. The birds, insects, and animals fill the world with a knowledge which challenges the understanding of the simple human.
It is therefore normal that the Pow Wow, deeply rooted in the traditions (religious) of the First Nations, is governed by many protocols.
The respect of these traditions and of these protocols require a basic understanding. The few recommendations below should help you avoid making mistakes that could be disrespectful and encourage better behaviour.
During a Pow Wow, alcoholic beverages and narcotic drugs are strictly forbidden on the site. Pets (dogs in particular), are not allowed, particularly in the vicinity of the dance arena and the sacred fire. The spectators must dress decently and with respect, as appropriate at a ceremony.
The dancers and the other participants are dressed in traditional regalia. You must not touch them, and especially not touch the eagle feathers which, for First Nations, are sacred.
If an eagle feather becomes detached from the regalia of a dancer and falls to the ground, you must not pick up or touch the feather. The Pow-wow is generally interrupted until the feather can be recovered in an appropriate manner by a medicine man. It is imperative to stand up (wherever possible) and to remove headwear during the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as during some ceremonial songs.
Throughout the pow-wow listen carefully to the announcements of the master of ceremony (MC). He explains in detail what the song, dance or ceremony means. He will tell you when it’s not possible to photograph or film. He will also inform you of the possibility to return to the arena for you join the dancers (during the social dances).
It is permitted to take photographs at traditional dances without asking for the prior permission, but without setting the foot in the dance circle. If you want to take a photograph of a particular dancer, it is recommended when you ask to offer him a bit of tobacco (this offering may be made in a piece of fabric called offering or « Tobacco tie »). Don’t hesitate to address the dancers directly, but without being too insistent, or even intrusive. They are generally very happy (and proud) to respond to your questions.
With the rules of the game in hand, you will dive into a unique, one-of-a-kind, encounter to be experienced at least once in your life! A beautiful way to make a fabulous trip to the Native American land.
An unforgettable memory guaranteed!