Buder Center's 28th Annual Pow Wow | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Buder Center's 28th Annual Pow Wow

Every spring, the Brown School’s Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies hosts its annual Pow Wow. 2018 marks the 28th year of this signature event, which draws performers and guests from across the country. My friend (and current MSW student), Krista Catron, is a Buder Scholar and works closely with other Scholars and administrators to plan the Pow Wow. 

Recently, I sat down with Kristin to learn more about the Pow Wow for myself and to share with you.


Buder Scholars participate in a class called Leadership Development and Evaluation in Indian Country, where they learn about the history, purpose and design of the Pow Wow, as well as help plan the event. Krista explained that this is a huge endeavor. Leading up to the event they host several fundraisers: trivia nights, silent auctions, and general fundraising from private donors. The event itself welcomes 4,000 guests, including community members from the Brown School, Washington University, St. Louis, the region, and often across the country. 

history of the pow wow

Throughout the Pow Wow, Native/Indigenous performers share their tribe's unique dance styles and regalia. The Pow Wows started because Native/Indigenous dancing was outlawed by European colonists. Native/Indigenous people, across several tribes, came together in secrecy to share their dances and culture in the face of oppression. As a person from non-Native/Indigenous descent I knew nothing about this history and was fascinated. 

pow wow events

Traditionally, Pow Wows run for three full days, so this one-day Pow Wow is considered a shorter event including: men’s dances, women’s dances, youth dances, and specialty dances. The central activities, however, are the Grand Entries: celebratory processions for all the event's performers, dressed in regalia, and set to live drumming. While the Pow Wow is a cultural  celebration, it is also a competition for the dancers, and the Grand Entry is a key to the competition. Some Pow Wow performers rely on competitions as their source of income, traveling across the country to share about their tribe’s culture, dances, regalia, and music. 

The performers are judged by a panel of judges called the Head Staff (typically the Head Staff are prior-participants in the Pow Wow). Head Staff include: Master of Ceremonies, Head Man, Head Woman, Head Gourd, Host Drum Groups, Arena Director, and Head Judge.

All are welcome at the Pow Wow, including non-Native/Indigenous guests. 


I asked Krista about the best way to participate in the event and respect the performers, and I learned a bit about the most respectful approach to taking photos and videos. In short: ask before taking a photo! As this is how many performers make a living, they may not want their performances posted to public sites or social media. And, if you cannot ask in advance to film a dance or performance, err on the side of not recording or photographing. 

Regalia is often very delicate, handmade, or older so she said to never touch any piece of a performers clothing or jewelry. 

Krista also shared that there are vendors at the Pow Wow and her personal take was that it was acceptable for non-Native/Indigenous guests to purchase and wear traditional jewelry. She noted that some Native/Indigenous people might feel differently, but she wanted any guests to feel like they can support the vendors and participate in the celebration of Native/Indigenous cultures. 

Learn more about the Pow Wow and Pow Wow Etiquette

Attend the 28th Annual Pow Wow: 

When: Saturday, April 21, 2018. Doors open at 10:00 am.

Where: The Field House at Washington University in St. Louis

Grand Entries: 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm

Free to the public. 

I am very excited for this event and I hope to see you all there!