Native American Pow Wow Regalia

Native American Pow Wow Regalia

Contemporary pow wow culture appeared in the 1930s after laws banning Native people from practicing traditional dances were lifted.

Pan-Indian pow wows are a way for diverse tribal populations to connect with each other across large regions while keeping their culture alive through dance, song, and storytelling.

Dancers wear regalia that blends historical, modern, and personal styles of dress and decoration. Many wear garments gifted or created by family members.

Especially in the contemporary  Pan-Indian pow wow's , dance competition has become a central focus of pow wow culture. Flashy, vibrant, and unique  regalia , or special clothing and decorative embellishments, are worn as a means of distinguishing dancers, enhancing the visual of the dances, and to catch the judges attention.

Contemporary Regalia From Camp Eagle Powwow

Contemporary Regalia From Camp Eagle Powwow

Powwow Regalia and Camp Eagle Powwow, 2016

Powwow Regalia and Camp Eagle Powwow

 Men’s Fancy Bustle Dance Regalia

Men's Fancy Bustle Dance Regalia, Virgie Begaye, 2017

Virgie and Harold Begaye and their daughter Chelsea Mohawk organize pow wows and other celebration events for the Native community in Utah. Virgie made this apron for her grandson to wear while competing in the Men’s Fancy Bustle Dance. He requested a wolf because he and his uncles refer to themselves as the “Wolf Pack.” Eventually the silver materials will be covered in glass beads. Virgie created a colorful border of green and orange because those are family colors and match her grandson’s moccasins and headband.

As beadwork became more commercialized in the 20th century, some artists transitioned from handstitched designs to weaving on a loom with beads collected from traders. Pow wow regalia and decorative objects and jewelry began to dominate, and Navajo people were taught beadwork in institutional settings such as boarding schools. After the 1960s, the beading enterprise was undercut by foreign trade markets mass-producing similar items for a portion of the price. However, there are still thousands of talented Native bead workers creating each piece by hand with care and unique designs.

Beaded Horse Medallion and Collar

Beaded Horse Medallion and Collar, Harold Begaye, 2007

Harold grew up training horses and participating in rodeos. As an artist, he has always loved drawing pictures of western life and culture. He has translated that art into traditional Navajo beadwork, stringing beads with meticulous attention to detail to create painterly versions of horses. He made this medallion for his grandson to wear during the Grass Dance when he was 7 years old. The collar has since been exchanged for a larger size.

Girls In Regalia at Camp Eagle Powwow, 2016

Girls In Regalia at Camp Eagle Powwow, 2016

Vocabulary Words: 
  • pow wow culture: A pow wow is a celebratory get-together which most often focuses on traditional Native American dancing. These celebrations typically feature honorings, feasts, trade, carnivals, parades, competitions, and more. 
  • Pan-Indian: This refers to celebrations that maintain ties across various tribes and traditions.
  • regalia: Traditional and special clothing, decoration, jewlery, and other adornments that are often worn or carried in formal ceremonies.
  • moccasins: Soft leather heelless shoes or boots. The seams of the heel are joined by a stitch. Moccasins are a traditional footwear choice in many Native American communities.
  • beadwork: The art of attaching beads to one another by stringing them with a sharp point and string, or sewing them to cloth, hide, or other textiles.
Native American Regalia