A powwow — wačhípi — is a gathering focused on dance, song and family. Powwows celebrate the connections to tradition and spirituality, to the Earth and to one another in a social, personal and spiritual meeting.
Powwows began mainly as religious ceremonies to gain wisdom from and give thanks to the Great Spirit — Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka. Though many of today’s powwows have evolved into social and contest dances, religious and ceremonial dances are still performed.
St. Joseph’s powwow is unique in that it is for tiny tots through teens only. Benefactors from all over the world come to Chamberlain to learn about the school and enjoy the talented dancers who include about half of the student body as well as other youth who come from neighboring communities in South Dakota. Many attendees, including some of the school’s students, follow the powwow circuit.
Though dance styles and content have changed, the meaning and importance of the dance remains the same. No other event captures the Native American spirit like the powwow.
The afternoon-long event begins with the Grand Entry when groups of dancers follow a color guard into the arena. Dancers in colorful regalia gracefully move around the circle, with the drumbeat directing their movements. The tradition is passed from one generation to the next.