The Native American Contest Powwow introduces Cultural Tethering Theory to convey the importance of the contest powwow in the celebration and preservation of Native American culture. The book addresses the concepts of culture, cultural change, acculturation, assimilation, and illustrates how competitive powwows align with and differ from competitive sporting events. Authors Steven Aicinena and Sebahattin Ziyanak go on to explain how the modern intertribal contest powwow evolved and why modern Native American cultures are experiencing an erosion of traditional values, a rapid loss of traditional languages, dysfunctional changes in social organization, limited opportunity to transmit culturally valued knowledge, and reduced opportunities for youths to observe culturally appropriate behavior. The authors also examine Native American identity and explore who can legitimately claim to be a Native American under current laws and customs. Additional topics addressed include blood quantum, cultural knowledge, cultural participation, being Indian, and playing Indian. Finally, the authors describe the difference between being Native American and playing Indian in powwow and pseudo-cultural powwow environments.
Steven Aicinena recently retired as professor of kinesiology at the of The University of Texas Permian Basin.
Sebahattin Ziyanak is associate professor of sociology at The University of Texas Permian Basin.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Contest Powwow
Chapter 1: The Powwow: From Sacred Spiritual Gathering to Competitive Event
Chapter 2: Similarities and Differences between the Gathering of Nations Contest Powwow and a University of New Mexico Lobo Basketball Game
Chapter 3: Contest Powwow Dancing as a Competitive Sport
Chapter 4: Contest Powwow Announcers: Purveyors of Culture and Traditions
Chapter 5: Is the Contest Powwow a Spiritual Ceremony?
Chapter 6: The Contest Powwow: A Ceremony Fostering Tradition and Social Change
Chapter 7: Cultural Tethering Theory
Through case studies of the Gathering of Nations and the Northern Plains Contest Powwow, Aicinena and Ziyanak investigate the emergence of the contest powwow in the second half of the 20th century. Contest powwows promote pan-Indian and intertribal values of extended kinship, hospitality, humor, dance and drumming, and reverence for elders and military veterans. The study finds that these commercialized spectacles are secular events produced for mass audiences featuring fancy dancing competitions that award large cash prizes to winners. Non-Indians and Natives from many different tribes purchase tickets to view and participate in these cultural tourism events, which resemble college basketball games. Traditional powwows persist to commemorate particular tribal communities, constituting what Émile Durkheim termed a “total social fact”: annual reunions promoting traditional spirituality, lifeways, and communities' economic well-being. Contest powwows, however, champion individualistic values of winning over harmonious communal relations and cannot undo the erosion of the “cultural tethers” that promote Native solidarity: living in a tribal community, speaking a traditional language, and being enmeshed in a local culture and social organization. This useful study investigates a neglected dimension of pan-Indian identity in the US. Recommended. General readers and lower-division undergraduates.
For years, I have heard from many that they felt that a powwow was only for Native Americans. That is not true. This book is so important in helping to educate people on what a powwow is and what a powwow entails and the carrying on of Indigenous traditions. This book is unique, and it helps to open the doors into welcoming everyone to enjoy this beautiful event of a powwow which is full of life, color, and culture.
This book is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the historical significance of sports and recreation as demonstrated in the 21st century powwow. Regalia, elders, gender-roles - the cultural significance of all aspects of a powwow are beautifully described. Readers will gain a deeper understanding for the art and sport of the dance. Living in Oklahoma affords me numerous opportunities to watch native Choctaw dances. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking a better understanding of tribal cultures.
8/23/22, Choice: This book was highlighted as a seminal text on leisure, recreation, and wellness.
9/29/22, Choice Reviews: This book was highlighted as a top community college title.