A Powwow, or Wacipi (pronounced wa-chee-pee), is a Native American celebration where a tribe gets together to dance, sing, spend time together, and honor the Native American culture. It is a time when the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota of South Dakota conduct Honorings, giveaways, family gatherings and when friends meet, camp, visit, and reconnect as tribal nations. With nine Native American tribes, South Dakota hosts many Wacipi celebrations each year, many of which welcome visitors to part or all of the celebration.
Often a multiple-day celebration, Wacipi are usually held outdoors during the summer. Breathtaking dance, accompanied by traditional singers and drumming, graces the Wacipi grounds, with competitions in different categories of dance. Clothed in elaborate traditional dress, the Wacipi dancers and singers tell many stories of the tribes, stories of honor and family, war and conquest, songs of joy, encouragement, humor and mourning. Intricate beadwork and featherwork are showcased in the ensembles worn by the singers and dancers.
The Grand Entry begins a Wacipi, when dancers carry flags and enter the arena area, which has been blessed before dancing. The arena is considered a sacred area, and the master of ceremonies specifies who will enter and exit. Flagbearers are usually followed by important guests of the Wacipi, including tribal chiefs, elders, and royalty. A flag song or national anthen is usually sung, and visitors are asked to stand and remove their hats.
Food is another important tradition at a Wacipi, with Native American delicacies like frybread being served and shared.
Wacipi have many special events, many of which are considered sacred. Visitors are asked to observe general visiting guidelines, including not touching the regalia of dancers, as each piece of a dancer’s outfit is very special, and may have taken many hours of work. Most Wacipi will publish visitor guidelines, such as when visitors are invited to participate in the dancing (usually when an “intertribal” dance is called), and when photography might be appropriate. Visitors are also encouraged to ask questions at the Wacipi, where a table or tent is typically set up for this purpose.
Wacipi frequently take place during the summer, although there are Wacipi scheduled year round. To find out about specific Wacipi and schedules, visit the South Dakota Tribal Government Relations Office website.