Powwow and Stomp Dance
Powwows began in the west with Plains Indians. They were tribal assemblies where people would gather to celebrate and renew family and tribal ties. They quickly became tourist attractions. Modern powwows began to gain momentum in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. They are often held for competition with prizes being awarded for performance.
Many tribes have annual powwows. There are many people involved in the planning including a sponsor such as a tribe, a local college, or an organization. Planning may take months or even a year. A committee is formed to designate certain jobs. The arena director is in charge of the powwow and the staff who run the event. The arena director makes sure that things are run smoothly, such as the dancers knowing the routines and assigning the judges to any contests. The master of ceremonies is the voice of the powwow and calls the event and dances. Head dancers are responsible for leading the other dancers in both dance and the entry parade at the beginning. The host drum provides music for the dancers. Powwows are usually set up in a series of circles, with the large center circle being known as the dance arena. The dance arena is where the master of ceremony has his table as well as where the drum groups sit. Outside the dance arena are circles used as for spectators and an area for booths for vendors selling food or arts or crafts.
The Stomp Dance is a religious or ceremonial dance which is limited to the tribe and the community rather than open to tourists. It is led by a male caller who is followed by a female dancer and the circle continues to alternate between male and female. Women wear shell-shakers, traditionally made from turtle shells but now usually made from condensed milk cans, filled with small stones. Women stomp and shake the cans to keep the rhythm of the dance. The dancers form a spiral with a real or symbolic fire in the central circle of the spiral. The dance is primarily performed by Eastern Woodland Tribes like the Myaamia. Men will wear a tunic shaped shirt with ribbon work on the back and chest. Women will wear a blouse and matching skirt with ribbon work along the hem.