Native American Heritage Month: Part 4


Join us in this episode as Gregory McGhee sits down with us to delve into the intricacies of powwow etiquette and traditions. Greg shares his journey from a small town in Atmore, Alabama, to embracing his Native American heritage and participating in powwows. We discuss the significance of powwows as cultural gatherings, emphasizing the importance of respect for dancers, regalia, and traditions. The conversation explores the roles of emcees, arena directors, and head dancers, shedding light on the intense competitions and drum contests. The episode not only educates listeners about powwow customs but also highlights the importance of fellowship and respect within the powwow community!


[1:17] – Gregory shares some background information about himself.

[3:33] – After attending an all-Indian university, Greg developed a deep appreciation for the community and traditions.

[6:16] – Greg continues to learn from powwows even though he’s been to many.

[7:59] – What is a powwow?

[10:36] – Last year’s 50th powwow marked a significant milestone, showcasing growth and community spirit.

[12:18] – Greg emphasizes the importance of showing respect at powwows.

[14:16] – Hear why Greg prefers the word “regalia” over “costume.”

[17:11] – When in doubt, ask for permission respectfully; inquire about cultural aspects.

[18:53] – Greg reiterates that respect and reverence are vital at powwows, especially during moments like eagle feather drops.

[19:54] – Eagle whistles symbolize honor, granted for passion, with significant responsibilities.

[21:03] – Greg adds that being whistled with an eagle signifies profound respect and fulfillment.

[23:38] – What does the eagle whistle sound like?

[25:49] – What are the responsibilities of an emcee?

[28:48] – Greg explains the role of the arena director.

[29:49] – What is the grand entry?

[30:47] – The eagle symbolizes unity and strength in Native American culture.

[33:24] – Greg discusses how flag songs unite tribes, honoring ancestors and preserving cultural legacies.

[35:38] – The emcee guides the audience during the grand entry, emphasizing respect and participation.

[37:17] – The arena area is reserved for dancers and families, with spectators using designated seating like bleachers.

[39:28] – Learn about intertribal dances.

[42:38] – Greg explains that the head man and head lady serve as lead dancers.

[45:54] – Dance and drum contests at powwows can be incredibly intense and anxiety-inducing.

[48:41] – Experienced judges select diverse dancers, ensuring fairness and competition integrity.

[50:08] – Dancers are evaluated based on symmetry, rhythm, and movement consistency.

[52:37] – The drum contest is an especially exciting aspect of the powwow.

[54:49] – Drum contests involve distinct northern and southern styles.

[57:48] – Drum contests’ formats vary at different powwows, leading to intense judging and competition.

[1:00:03] – Greg emphasizes that maintaining focus, especially during dance leads, is crucial.

[1:02:58] – Greg has learned that a lot of vendors are willing to barter and/or trade.


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