No other event captures the American Indian spirit like the powwow or "wacipi." Dancers in colorful dress move gracefully around the ring, a steady drum beat directing their movements. Tradition is passed from one generation to the next.
Today's powwows often feature competitions in categories such as traditional, fancy, grass, shawl, and jingle-dress dancing. Entrants wear different styles of clothing according to the dance. While a fancy dancer dons bustles and beads, a shawl dancer wears a long-fringed shawl over an elaborately beaded dress, moccasins, and leggings.
Powwows present a great opportunity for non-Indians to learn about the culture, and most are open to the public. They can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and frequently include craft displays, rodeos, and cultural exhibits. You might also get a taste of ethnic food such as the popular Indian taco, Indian fry bread, or "wojapi," a fruit pudding.
A steady drumbeat directs the dancers' movements.
As a powwow spectator, you'll want to be respectful of the unique customs you'll witness. Here are a few tips:
It's generally acceptable to take pictures or video, but check beforehand.
Ask permission before taking someone's photo outside of the dance circle.
Stand at the "Grand Entry" to pay respect to the dancers. Remain standing for the Great Sioux Nation's national anthem.
The dance area is sacred; don't enter it unless invited. (There are often "intertribal" dances in which the master of ceremonies invites spectators to join in the dancing.)
Many powwows don't have seating. Bring along a lawn chair of blanket, and make yourself comfortable!
The summer powwow circuit draws dancers from across the state.
Below is a list of major powwows that occur annually throughout the state. Please call ahead to verify time and location.
Annual Sisseton-Wahpeton Wacipi
Agency Village, near Sisseton
Fourth of July holiday (605) 698-3911
Bear Soldier Powwow
Fourth of July holiday (701) 854-7202
Annual Black Hills Powwow and Indian Art Market
Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City
Second weekend in July (605) 341-0925
Flandreau Santee Sioux Powwow
Third weekend in July (605) 997-3891
Fort Randall Powwow
First full weekend in August (605) 384-3641
Oglala Nation Powwow and Rodeo
First full weekend in August (605) 867-5821
Lower Brule Powwow
Second weekend in August (605) 473-5561
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Annual Powwow
Third weekend of August (605) 245-2221
Annual Rosebud Fair & Rodeo
Fourth weekend in August (605) 856-2625
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Annual Fair, Rodeo, and Powwow
Labor Day weekend (605) 964-4000
Great Plains Powwow
Sioux Falls Coliseum
Second weekend in October (in conjunction with
Native American Day) (605) 339-7039