The For the People Pow Wow is an intertribal celebration of Indigenous culture in Missouri. This two-day event has been described as a cross between a family reunion and a music festival with dancing, singing, and colorful regalia.

The For the People Pow Wow, an intertribal celebration of Indigenous culture, will feature dance exhibitions, music, vendors, and food trucks.

By Caroline Dohack

The For the People Pow Wow will be held May 25 and 26 at the Jaycee Fairgrounds in Jefferson City. The event, sponsored by the Missionary Society for Preservation of Traditional Values with support from Missouri Humanities, is free and open to the public and will feature dance exhibitions, music, vendors, and food trucks. 

Pow Wow Committee Chair Greg Olson says the For the People Pow Wow, now in its 14th year, is somewhat unique in that it brings together members of the many tribes that once lived in the region.

“This goes back to Missouri’s peculiar history with Indigenous people,” Olson says. “We forcibly removed them in the 1830s. Since that time, there have been no tribal headquarters in Missouri, so those who were able to stay were left on their own.”

In addition to being removed from their homes, Indigenous people were forbidden by law from practicing their religions, Olson says. Music and dancing were considered religious practice. However, exhibitions like Buffalo Bill Cody’s popular Wild West Show were an acceptable exception to the rule. 

“So, the pow wow grew from that,” Olson says.

And over time, pow wows became an important way to celebrate and preserve Indigenous culture. Younger generations learn their ancestral songs and dances from their elders and, eventually, earn the privilege of wearing the regalia.

While other pow wows, especially those out West, might be rooted in a single tribal tradition, the For the People Pow Wow is a cultural melting pot.

“In our pow wow, you’ll see people out at the same time doing different dances,” Olson says. “You’ll see girls and women doing jingle dances and shawl dances and men doing fancy dances, and they’ll all be out there together. It’s a cross between a celebration, a family reunion, a music festival – it’s just all of that. If people can come and have fun, that’s the best part.”

All photos by Ridin’ 90 Photography.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.