National Powwow XV: Tipis, Gourd Dancing, and More at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds

Back in the early days of the United States, Indiana was be completely covered with a vast deciduous forest that spanned much of the Midwest. In these unexplored regions of the North American continent, thousands of Native Americans from several different tribes lived the lifestyle they’d been accustomed to for hundreds of years. But then came pioneers, Manifest Destiny, Lewis and Clark, and the eventual eradication of the Native Americans from Hoosier soil. Today, Indiana is named after the state’s former residents, and a few of their traditions live on in unlikely places like the Conner Prairie Living History Museum, but by and large Native American heritage is dying out. That’s why, every three years, the Hendricks County Fairgrounds attracts thousands of visitors for the National Powwow, a celebration of Native American culture throughout the United States and a gathering point for enthusiasts of all stripes. National Powwow XV will take place Wednesday, July 6, 2011 through Saturday, July 9, 2011 at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in the nearby Indianapolis city of Danville, Indiana.

Promotional video for National Powwow XV, which will take place from July 6, 2011 through July 9, 2011 in Danville, Indiana

Held every three years since 1969, the National Powwow’s mission is to “respectfully share in the values of American Indian culture…educate ourselves and increase awareness of American Indian traditions among the non-Indian community with the support and guidance of Indian people.” The first National Powwow was in Denver, Colorado in 1969; the event moved between several sites in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois before settling in Tipton, Indiana for National Powwow VI in 1984. There would be three National Powwow’s in Tipton, and four subsequent National Powwow’s would be held in Crescent City, Illinois. National Powwow XIII and XIV were held in Danville, Illinois; 2011 marks the first year the National Powwow will be held in Danville, Indiana.

Video of the press conference held to announce National Powwow XV, which will take place July 6 through 9, 2011 in Danville, Indiana

There’s lots of exciting Indianapolis things to do for everybody at National Powwow XV, each activity celebrating an aspect of Native American culture or history. Of special interest this year is the Tipi Encampment and Contest. Visitors to National Powwow XV are invited to bring their own lodges for camping in the special Tipi Encampment area. The first twenty tipis to be set up in the Tipi Encampment area will receive $50 in travel expenses, and all tipi campers will have their fees waived by the Hendricks County Fairgrounds. You can also register for the Tipi Contest; the best decorated tipi wins the coveted Gordon and Janice Collins Memorial Award, named after a couple who were building lodges at the first National Powwow in Denver and continued to do so for many years after.

Video of the drum circle that accompanied the press conference for National Powwow XV, taking place at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in Danville, Indiana July 6 through 9, 2011

Other prizes will be awarded to participants in National Powwow XV. The Lee Bircher Memorial Award will be given to the top Arts and Crafts Exhibition vendor as part of the Crafts Contest, while the Bob Past Memorial Award will be given to the Powwow attendee with the fanciest footwork, and the Tammy Conklin Day Memorial Award is given to the female Powwow attendee who “will most exemplify the Tammy Conklin Day spirit.” Similar to the Indianapolis 500 Festival Princess Program, the National Powwow also has a Princess contest, in which contestants ages 13 to 18 compete for the right to participate in powwows all over the country.

Video of a Straight Dance performed at a powwow at the National Museum of American Indians; National Powwow XV will featuring straight dances like this in Danville, Indiana

Every day of the National Powwow XV schedule brings new things to do for Indianapolis people. The Danville event officially kicks off at noon, with the official flag raising and prayer. There will be exhibition dancing from 3 to 5, and intertribal dancing from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Thursday will provide a series of activities for Indianapolis children, followed by educational seminars in the conference center. As a matter of fact, each day after Wednesday will have time slots carved out so participants can attend one of the many educational seminars going on. Options include History of Canvas Tipis, Flat Fan Construction, Silverwork Techniques, Discussion of Men’s War Dances, Men’s Chicken Dance Outfit, and Parfletch Construction (see a full seminar schedule here). Gourd dancing and intertribal dancing will again wrap up the evening on Thursday. Other fun activities continue throughout National Powwow XV’s four days, including the Family Hand Drum Special, a Kid’s Powwow, a Veteran’s Dinner, and the All Nations Parade.

Video of a traditional female Lakota dance at a powwow at the National Museum of American Indians; National Powwow XV in Danville, Indiana will feature many examples of traditional Native American dance

Whether you’re interested in the intricacies of Native American culture or you just want to participate in a good old fashioned gourd dance, National Powwow XV may be just the ticket for you. One of the largest events in Danville, National Powwow XV will take place in the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in Danville, Indiana from Wednesday, July 6, 2011 to Saturday, July 9, 2011. Daily entrance fees for National Powwow XV are $5 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under, and absolutely free for kids under 5. Guests are also invited to camp out at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds for $10 a night (primitive or electric) or $18 a night (full hook up). Campers with tipi lodges will have their camping fees waived. Guests can also stay at Staybridge Suites near the Indianapolis International Airport and the Holiday Inn Express in Plainfield, Indiana for easy access to National Powwow XV. Through Saturday, July 9, 2011, bring your tipi lodge, your dancing shoes, and an open mind for National Powwow XV!

National Powwow XV
Wednesday, July 6, 2011 through Saturday, July 9, 2011
Tickets: $5/day for adults, $2/day for kids 6-12, FREE for kids <5
Event Homepage

Hendricks County Fairgrounds
1900 E Main St
Danville, IN 46122

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