A powwow is a popular term that comes from the Algonquian word "pau-wau" or "pauau". The meaning of the word powwow relates to when the medicine men and spiritual leaders of the Indian community would come together for a meeting. The term powwow was actually mispronounced by European explorers who observed various gatherings and dances, and the mispronounced name stuck. Those who were not of Indian heritage began to use the word powwow for all the gatherings they observed the Indians having, and even the Indians themselves began to use the term. It has now becomes an accepted term for all people.
- Buffalo Bill Historical Center What a powwow is and the history
- Powwow What is a powwow, history, events and more
The powwow also can claim roots from a Pawnee religious ceremony which occurred during the 19th century. It was used by the Omaha, along with other tribes, to also describe speeches, gift giving, and different feasts. Many sources claim that original powwow dances were attended by warrior societies, who were also known as Grass Dancers. Powwows could last for hours, a day or even up to a week in length. Music was generally a major part of the powwows, including drumming and other cultural instruments. The center of a powwow was usually the dance floor, when a powwow was held for entertainment purposes.
No one knows exactly when the first powwow occurred. There are some records stating that they may have started at least 100 years ago. Modern powwows are still practiced in today's world, and are practiced by both Indians and non-Indians. A powwow can also simply be a way for people to meet up, sing, dance and talk to one another, while honoring the Native American culture. The term has taken on a slight slang definition, as in "Let's have a powwow and talk about it", referring to a business venture or the like. This use, while common today, may be looked at as disrespectful to the Native Americans.