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Pow Wows

Searching For Truth: A Blog by Sherri Smith


I recently attended a Powwow in Southwestern Ontario and it was my 2nd experience there…perhaps because I had made the effort to understand the significance of the event to a greater detail that it became an emotional day for me. In this, I thought I would share what I understand, and in sharing perhaps knock some walls of adversity or fear around what is actually being expressed. And also to embrace the wisdom being shared, they have been incredible caretakers of the earth and we have much to learn from their practices. I was raised with such extreme racism in my family and that may have been the catalyst I needed to seek change in how I viewed other cultures, because in that closed-minded mentality, we miss out on such richness and beauty.

The Powwow was thought to have originated with the Pawnee tribe as a religious ceremonial meeting, filled with dancing and other rituals. It became adopted by other tribes and eventually became tradition; often marking a successful hunt or to give thanks to spirits for a bountiful harvest.Native Americans believe all living things contain spirit and that life and death are a circle of completion.These ceremonies are often celebrated with tribal drums, dancing, food, chanting and healing rituals. In the dance, ancient stories could be expressed which keeps the history alive.The tradition continues, centring around the changing seasons with a festival ambiance with vendors selling arts and crafts and local dishes.

The dance regalia is an art in itself, and the ability to dance in this attire, often weighing up to 40 pounds is a further expression of the art and passion of the tradition. I had asked an elder the significance of some of the items on the regalia and I was told they are their own stories, with some items holding specific significance such as the mirrors for blocking adversity and darkness.Everything is imbued with spiritual meaning, particularly in the expression of culture and identity.

For dancers, not only is the act of dancing that expression, but the wearing of dance regalia is the visible manifestation of one’s heritage. A dancer’s regalia is one of the most powerful symbols of their identity and in that regard it can be considered sacred. This is one reason why it is incorrect to refer to dance regalia as a “costume.” Many of the elements that make up a dance outfit are items often associated with ceremonial function such as eagle feathers, animal hides, porcupine quills, items that have been handed down through generations, as well as designs that may have been handed down or were given in dreams and visions.

There are several categories of dance, with each highlighting its unique significance. The Men’s Traditional is aiming to tell you a story. Typically it is one of a hunt, a battle, or a certain victory, utilizing different movements to demonstrate the story. The Men’s Fancy Feather Dance is one of the spectator’s favorites; it is fast and furious and dancers must be in top physical condition to execute the tricky footwork and acrobatic movements that make this style so exciting to watch. They are required to keep in rhythm while making fringe and feathers shake and sway, and twirling hand held spinners. Women’s Fancy Shawl, Jingle and Traditional are also beautiful and challenging styles to master.

My personal favorite was the Men’s Grass Dance; it is a medicine dance birthed from the young men of the plains nations stomping down tall prairie grasses to prepare the site of a new village or ceremony. The fluid swaying motions represent a sense of balance with all nature. It struck me as I watched in awe their feet drumming the earth of what an Elder once said to me on leaving nothing but our footprints on the earth. He described how in indigenous cultures you look for a natural clearing on the earth to build upon so that you are not uprooting the trees and vegetation. It gives immense respect to the intelligence of nature and why trees are located in specific locations; it may be for the stability of the land, for shelter of species thriving below it or a multitude of other reasons. But it is in acknowledging the respect of that and co-existing that we maintain the balance within the ecosystem or matrix, living in harmony with the land.


Sherri Smith from A State of Bliss has trained extensively and globally with ancient modalities and traditions to combine the wisdom these teachings into her own unique therapies. We are deeply connected to the natural world and many of the ills of society today are a result of our separation from this. Sherri's commitment to her own journey keep her immersed in teachings, experiences and advancement, in turn providing rich and rare content to her offerings. There is a yearning within each of us to live a greater life. Discover your power, your gifts and your truths.

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