Pow wow at Porcupine

Dancers at a pow wow in Rocky Boy, Montana (Flickr/Bear Paw Battlefield)

Sounds and voices from a pow wow at Porcupine, in the Oglala Lakota Reservation of Pine Ridge in South Dakota. In North America, ‘having a pow wow’ is an informal expression for holding a meeting or a serious conversation. The Native American term ‘pow wow’ comes from the Algonquian language group, and originally it did indeed refer to a gathering of revered spiritual leaders.

In our times, pow wows are fabulous celebratory events. These explosions of music and dance go on throughout the year all over the USA and Canada. Local pow wows and large inter-tribal gatherings can be positively hallucinatory with hundreds of feathered and painted dancers mingling and jingling near the traditional arena. Porcupine South Dakota is a small town on Pine Ridge Reservation, where the Oglala Lakota people display their heritage with vigour. The drums they play are the heartbeat of their people, while the pow wow is open to other seekers on the road.

Producer: Martha Hawley

Broadcast: March 14, 2005