Gathering Ceremonies

The gatherings of the past were not done as they are today. 
The current day pan-Indian and competition dancing pow wows are 
performed more for commercial and entertainment purposes.  Prior to 
colonial contact, the eastern woodland native peoples probably held 
small gatherings to celebrate various special occasions during the 
year.  A marriage, a death, the planting moon, the harvest moon, 
warfare, and trading would be likely events that would bring people 

Our Band tries to combine the old traditional purposes, education, 
and artisan participation into our gatherings.  We like to consider 
our gatherings to be more traditional than most other regional pow 
wows that are scheduled for nearly every weekend during the year.  
We do however support the commercial element of the artisans and 
traders at the gathering to help to fund other cultural and social 
services for the Band.

The gathering site should be in a woodland setting near water with a 
grassy level clearing greater than 200 feet square.   If the 
gathering is planned for a public event with traders, the site should 
be 500 feet square and parking for 100 vehicles should be planned.

The circle should be between 50 and 100 feet in diameter.  
The preferred layout would use stones to mark the circle outline 
and eastern opening.  Bails of hay or straw (9 minimum) make a good 
substitute for rocks and they can be used for seating for the dancers 
and elder spectators.

A good circle for public events can be made using 4-5 foot wooden 
stakes (12 minimum) spaced out along the circle outline with a top 
(1/4 inch) rope (200-300 feet) tied from stake to stake.

If traders are going to be present make sure that a perimeter space 
of at least 20 feet (50 or more is preferred) is provided around the 

To layout the circle, drive a stake in the center of the area 
selected.  Pace off the desired radius (half the diameter) of the 
circle, tie a rope to the stake, mark the rope with a knot, and 
strike marks, using the rope length marked, around  the circle 
outline so that each mark is the same distance from the center.  
Using the rocks, bails, or stakes divide the circle outline into 
equal parts so that the outline is clearly established.   


At the center of the circle an arbor is setup.  The arbor is a 
shelter for the drum, spiritual leaders and elders.  The arbor is 
built using 5 to 9 heavy 2-4 inch posts that are approximately 10 
feet in length, set 2 feet into the ground.  For one drum the arbor 
should be approximately 10-12 feet in diameter.  If two or more drums 
are to sheltered under the arbor the size will have to be increased 
accordingly.  A center post will be needed in this case.   Poles, 
12-14 feet long, are lashed, about 8 feet above the ground, from one 
upright post to the one opposite it, or the center post.  The number 
and size of the posts and poles will depend on the size of the arbor.
Once the sub-structure is completed, branches and bows of evergreen, 
pine or cedar, are placed over the poles to form a roof.  The amount 
of evergreens used will depend on the need to screen out the sun or 
to keep out rain.


As the sun rises each day of the gathering, the spiritual leaders 
gather at the circle to smoke and make prayers for the gathering.  
They ask the Creator, Mother Earth, Father Sky, the four directions, 
and all of our Relations to bless the gathering, the gathering 
grounds, the people coming and going, and those that could not be 
there.  The circle is blessed at this time using tobacco and other 
offerings to Mother Earth - to be allowed to walk and dance on her in 
the circle.      

The drum calls the people to the circle with various welcoming songs.  
When the people are gathered at the circle eastern entrance they form 
a procession.  There is much debate about who enters the circle 
first.  Obviously the spiritual leaders have already been in the 
circle to bless it and the drum is already in the arbor at the center 
of the circle.  Most people agree that the elders lead into the 
circle first, usually with the men proceeding the women and children 
to "clear the way" and some young warriors to follow for their 

The first song is usually a "warm-up" calling or welcoming song.  
The next one is the "grand entry" song.  The first few songs 
and prayers follow this pattern and purpose:

Calling or Welcome 	-	To bring the dancers to the circle.
Grand Entry		-	To invite everyone into the 
Honor - Our Land	-	To honor our Land, N'dakina.
Death Prayer		-	To honor those that have gone on 	
				before us.
Warriors & Veterans	-	To honor and to remember those that 
				have pasted on before us.
Ancestors & Creator	-	To honor the Creator and all of our Ancestors of Past 	- 	

Present and Future Generations. 
Welcomes		-	Men to Men welcome song.
			-	Women to Women welcome song.
			-	Welcome to all song.

 After this point the songs follow many honoring, special dances, and 
social practices.  For example the following are used: 

Band Honor song		-	To honor where we come from. 
Medicine		-	Medicine honor song.
Round Dances		-	Several social dances.
Feast Song		- 	To honor the animals and plants that 
				give us food.
Green Corn		- 	Honor song for corn and the upcoming 
Pine Needle		-	Special dance to follow directions 
				about going around, left, right, 
				forward, backward, and fast.
Snake			-	Special dance of follow the leader in 
				a snaking chain that winds around the 
				circle in all directions.
Animal Clan		- 	Honor song for all the clan animals, 
				calling them by name.
Crow 			- 	A crow honoring song and dance.
Eagle			- 	An eagle honoring song.
Children's		-	A song to teach the children numbers 
				and the parts of their body from 
				their head to their feet.
Love Songs		-	To romance the young women at the 
Wedding Dance		- 	Special song for a wedding.
Canoe Song		-	Canoe on the river description song.
Seven Directions	-	Honor song to the directions to the 
				Creator, Mother Earth, Father Sky, 
				and all of our Relations. 

At the end of each day at sunset the circle is be closed until the 
next sunrise.  A great communal feast is held after the day time 
dancing stops.  All people are encouraged to make and share their 
food with one another.  Before the eating starts a Feast Honor song 
is sung and the leaders make prayers of thanksgiving for the food.  
The elders and drum are served first to honor them.  

A night time fire is started at the gathering sight and the drum 
sings social dances for as long as they and the dancers wanted.  
This was a social time, no public attention and minimal formalities.  
This was also a time for the young people to sing and dance to 
show-off, practice new things, and make social friendships. 

If the gathering is a major public event, the following information 
should be made available to the public in the form of a hand-out:

 Kuai, kuai - Hello, hello and welcome to our POW WOW!  A POW WOW may 
appear to you to be a festival , craft show, or a cultural 
demonstration.  Colorful people in native dress - singing and dancing 
to the sounds of drums.  This is true in many ways, but to us it is 
much more.

To the Algonquin language speaking people, which covers all of the 
original New England people, the words pow wow refer to a medicine 
gathering.  A time when the medicine women and men would be available 
for healing and spiritual guidance.  Singing, drumming, dancing, and 
prayers were all used as part of that healing process.  Whenever we 
got together there would also be a great deal of socializing, 
trading, and gaming.  This was an extended family gathering were many 
clans and bands of native people could come together in peace and 
good will.  It was also a time for "match making" and marriages.  
Although the times around us have changed, we do not forget the ways 
of our ancestors, today's pow wows still have the spiritual elements 
of the gatherings of many generations before.

We dance in a circle, a circle that is formed and blessed by our 
spiritual leaders.  As in life itself, the circle is a sacred place, 
it is the beginning and end, as the Creator has made it so.  
The circle is a place of worship - we ask you to respect and honor 
this - the spiritual center of our gathering.  As the Earth revolves 
around the Sun we enter the circle from the East and proceed in the 
circle in the sun direction.

The singers and drummers are referred to as the "Drum."  Like the 
rhythm of all living beings, the drum is the heartbeat of our People 
and the singing is our gift and praise to the Creator.

The dancing starts with a "Grand Entry" of the dancers, this is the 
way we first enter the circle, pay our respects to the Creator, and 
greet one another.  Following the entry are honoring songs and dances 
for our land "N'dakina," for veterans and warriors that have gone on 
before us, and for our Ancestors.  For these solemn ceremonies you 
will be requested to stand, remove your hat, and NOT TO TAKE PICTURES 
OR VIDEOS when asked to do so.

Once these ceremonies are completed you will be told to relax and 
enjoy the activities.  As a courtesy to our people - please do not 
touch any of their native attire, feathers, or any of their personal 
belongings.  Many of these things are sacred to them.  Ask questions, 
ask for permission to see or explain something that is of interest to 
you.  If you want to take individual pictures also ask permission as 
a courtesy.  You will find that most Native People will be pleased to 
assist you when you ask first.

Various special dances and demonstrations will be held in the circle.  
One of these dances is called the "Round Dance."  When this dance is 
announced you will be invited to join us in the dancing.  
When entering the circle - please go in from the East opening of the 
circle (do not go through the circle edge or under the ropes) and 
proceed in the sun direction (clock wise - going to your left).

While you are with us please check the art work and handicrafts of 
the artisans that are trading at the gathering.  You will find a wide 
variety of Native food, jewelry, beadwork, baskets, silver work, 
herbs, and other Native trade goods, such as leather.  Several 
demonstrations and story telling activities will also be ongoing - so 
plan on staying for the day.

All people are invited to come and participate in our celebration.  
We ask that you do not bring and drugs or alcohol on the gathering 
site - you will be asked to leave if you do.  Please bring your whole 
family, we do!  If you bring animals please keep them on a leash at 
all times for their safety.  The elders and children will find this 
is a true family event for all of us, so bring your whole family and 
join us in friendship.

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