The Saturday powwow during Family Reunion Festival is a wonderful way to experience Nishnabé culture, both traditional and contemporary. Here is how to make your experience even better.

Is the powwow social or ceremonial?

Powwows are largely social but still involve some ceremonial elements. It is important to be respectful. The dance circle is reserved for those dancing or singing. Don’t walk across the dance circle. Please ensure that small children do not run or play in the dance circle.

The powwow opens with Grand Entry at 8 p.m. Everyone who is able should stand as the eagle staff and flags are brought in by veterans and elders. During the Flag Song, or other honor songs, everyone will remain standing. Men should remove their hats.

I’ve never danced before, but I’d like to dance. What do I need to know?

All dancers are welcome during intertribal songs. Listen to the Master of Ceremonies, or emcee. They will announce when all dancers are invited to enter the circle.

Women should wear their regalia or a long maxi-type skirt and a top that covers their shoulders. Women may wear their shawl across their shoulders or carry it folded on their arm. Men should wear a ribbon shirt and slacks. It is acceptable to add ribbons to a commercially made shirt. Everyone should wear close-toed shoes. The dance circle is grass covered, so flat shoes are best.

Dancers will move in a clockwise direction around the circle.

During contest songs, or other special songs, exit the dance circle so that contestants or those being honored may dance.

If you are participating in Grand Entry, head to the Grand Entry point a few minutes before it begins. An arena director will help everyone find their place. If you are participating with one of the honored families, gather with your family members.

I’m not dancing, so how should I enjoy myself?

Seating is available around the dance circle. You may bring your own outdoor-type chair or sit in the bleachers. The benches around the circle are reserved for dancers. Please do not sit on the benches or move any blankets or regalia placed on the benches.

Listen carefully to the singers and observe how slowly or quickly the beat moves. Sometimes you may be able to pick out Bodéwadmimwen words or other Indigenous languages being used.

Watch the dancers and note the differences between each style of dance. Appreciate the wide variety of colors, beadwork and other elements each dancer wears. Notice the different materials used, both modern and traditional. Many dancers spend months or even years preparing their regalia. Some pieces are proudly handed down from previous generations.

It is not acceptable to touch a dancer’s regalia without permission. Some regalia items may become damaged if casually handled, or they may have spiritual significance and should not be touched by others.

Can I take photos?

Photography is permitted but do not use flash photography during a contest or honor song. It is distracting to the dancers. Do not step in or stand inside the dance circle while taking photos.

Always ask permission before taking someone’s photo. Please respect their preference not to be photographed if they decline.

A good opportunity for photos may be found away from the dance circle. Many dancers are happy to socialize and answer questions in between songs.

To respect the sacred nature of the dance circle, food, beverages, smoking and pets are not permitted.

Read more about powwow etiquette at