Activities, protocols, songs, and dance styles and songs of modern pow-wow are intertribal expression of American Indian traditions and religion. Rituals of these native social gatherings are rooted in tradition, with most of them morphing into modified versions of actual traditional practices as time has passed. Dance styles and outfits for men and women in these modern pow-wows have developed through compromises between the many intertribal communities in the United States and Canada. Pre-conquest, many tribes had social traditions where they gathered in intratribal and intertribal assemblies to dance and sing.
As pow-wows developed throughout North America, they became highly formalized events with protocols and participant behaviors controlled by unwritten traditions. These controlling traditions, though, are "invented traditions," traditions constructed and instituted within a relatively short period of time, and they are dynamic but hard to change once accepted. As a result, pow-wows throughout Canada and the United States are mostly similar in features, rituals, dance styles, dance outfits, and dance songs. Yet, even with the generalized pow-wow traditions, many Indigenous American people find that they are also a place to reaffirm their Native identity.
Modern pow-wows are accepting of intertribal participation and they take two forms: (1) a traditional pow-wow where the primary purpose of the meeting is to socialize and celebrate with friends and family and (2) a contest pow-wow where dancers in particular dance-style categories compete with each other for prize-money. Both types of pow-wows provide support to Native Americans and First Nations individuals and communities through ritual participation in dancing, singing, or watching. Further, traditional pow-wows encourage community-health whereas the contest pow-wows are places where “identities are negotiated and cultural expressions are canonized.” Despite any differences, both type of pow-wows are opportunities for Native people to learn because of their more significant similarities in rituals and song and dance traditions.
Urban American Indians, in particular, who live away from their traditional lands and communities, manifest their traditions and Native expression through contemporary intertribal pow-wows. These social gatherings not only help urban Indians develop their American Indian identity but they also help them cope with life stresses and develop native community relations. Most pow-wows, however, limit the participation of some based on cultural and social expectations for women and others within their Native communities.
There are pow-wows throughout the year, starting as early in the year. In general, pow wow season runs from June until September, with numerous being held each weekend. Some Native families will follow the "pow wow circuit," as they travel from one pow wow to another, often camping out at each site and catching up with old friends. Often, but not always, pow-wows are open to the public, especially when they are organized by public groups or organizations. This helps educate the locals on American Indian culture. There may or may not be a fee for admission to a pow wow. But keep in mind that fees and sponsorships help offset the cost of putting on these enormous undertakings.
The Lipan Apache Tribe’s pow wows are traditional, set up primarily as homecomings for the Lipan people where they can socialize, celebrate, and learn with friends and family. Traditionally, the Lipan Apache had social gatherings where their people from extended family and different Lipan band groups would gather together to celebrate important events such as a good hunt, the coming of springtime, the fall harvest, and major life events. These traditional meetings evolved throughout many generations to the current “pow wow” cultural celebrations, meant specifically for the Lipan people but also welcoming to other American Indians (intertribal). Thanks to the Soto family of the Little Breech Cloth Lipan Apache who in 1970 formalized the yearly Lipan social gatherings as "pow wows." With the 1970 pow wow, the Tribe pow wows celebrated fifty years in 2020. And, these traditional gatherings continue.
There are two annual tribe pow wows, the Nde Daa (Spring) Homecoming Pow Wow in March and the Dakee Si (Fall Gathering) Pow Wow in October. At both pow-wows, all are invited to come experience traditional and intertribal drumming, singing, and dancing. The ceremonial Badger Run commences either the spring or fall pow-wow. Gourd Dances are held before and between the dancing. The pow-wow then begins with the modern pow-wow tradition known as the Grand Entry where veterans delegated to carry the Indian flag--the eagle feather staff--and the flags (U.S., Lipan Tribe, and Texas flags) lead the dancers onto the pow-wow circle as the host drum drums and sings an opening song. In the Grand Entry, the dancers following the veterans enter organized by dance style (traditional before fancy) and with respect for elders (elders precede younger). There will be a Grand Entry to start each the afternoon and evening dancing. Along with the dancing, the Tribe includes fun events such as raffles and cake walks. They also welcome vendors who sell American Indian food, crafts, supplies, and wares. Both of the Tribe’s pow wows are free with no entrance fees.