The circle is very important to American Indian peoples.
Creation is a circle, the Sacred Hoop, never ending, constantly renewing. The center of the hoop is the center of Creation.
All Creation moves in a circle, divided into four related parts - four seasons, four directions, four races, four beings [two-legged, four legged, winged, swimmers].
The Dance Arena is a sacred circle, and within that circle all things exist and are equal.
The drumbeat is the heartbeat of Native Peoples and their way of life.
The traditional drum is a highly respected and sacred instrument. Traditional drums have no steel on them and are covered with deer, elk, moose or buffalo hide. There are usually at least four singers on the drum, giving testimony to the four directions.
The drum is never left unattended. Nothing is ever set on the drum, nor is anyone allowed to reach across the drum. The drum carrier and singers have spent many years learning the tradition and the songs.
Some songs are very old, and have been passed down from generation to generation. Some songs are contemporary. At times during a song, there will be honor beats. These are louder beats in a slower tempo, and are done out of respect for the drum.
There are many songs and dances in American Indian cultures. Some songs have words, (honor songs, for instance); others have "vocables," a melody to dance to. Many are strictly traditional and are danced to in traditional fashion; some are contemporary and are danced to in more recent fashion.
The powwow begins with Grand Entry, in which all of the dancers participate.
The Grand Entry procession is lead by the Eagle staff. The Eagle staff represents our nations, our elders, our way of life. Honored veterans are flag bearers and are followed by Men Traditional, Grass Dancers, and Fancy Dancers, then Women Traditional (first buckskin then cloth dress), Jingle Dancers and Fancy Shawl Dancers, then Children (in roughly the same order). Dancers enter the arena from an opening at the East, dancing in many stylistic variations to the heart-beat of the drum.
After the dancers have entered the arena, the flag song will be sung. The song honors the Eagle staff and the American flag. After the follow-up song, a prayer will be offered by a respected spiritual leader or respected elder. All gatherings are begun with a word of thanks and a prayer to the Creator. After the Eagle staff and the flags have been posted, there will be a Victory to honor all veterans. All veterans should participate in the Veterans' Dance.
As they dance, the dancers in the Arena create a circle, which represents the sacred circle of life and gives testimony to the Creator and to the ancestors that they carry the traditional ways in their hearts.