Only Native Americans will dance in regalia at NAAoG events
For many years it was possible for non-Native American dancers to dance in regalia at events organized by NAAoG. We regarded this as one important part of cultural exchange. We thought non-Natives would get a deeper understanding of the meaning to the songs and the dances as they participate in dancing by wearing Native American regalia. For many years the NAAoG organized powwow etiquette & dancing workshops for the non-Native American members. These workshops were a form of education to create an understanding for the true concept of what dancing means to Native American people. We envisioned a future of non-Native Americans dancing with a great deal of respect to the meaning of Native American powwow dancing.
Over the years more and more non-Native Americans (most of them were Europeans) wanted to learn how to dance. We recognized the Europeans who take this very seriously and want to understand what dancing really means beyond the beautiful regalia. On the other hand, we cannot dismiss non-Native American dancers who perform Native American dancing as a hobby. A hobby which allows an opportunity to display themselves in traditional regalia to reflect their ability to dance in terms of a big show. Their action exposes them as not possessing the understanding or true concept of the Native American dancing. They have head knowlegde of powwows, but lack the spirituality & pure purpose that is associated with Native American dancing.
In the past the NAAoG powwows were open to the public and attracted a lot of Europeans dressed in Native American regalia to participate in dancing. While some of them were very respectful others did not even want to listen to Native American elders’ direction or wisdom. Those who did not take heed to the Native American elders continue to do as they wish thus fully disrespecting a culture they have no understanding. Simply, non-Native Americans have no right to act like this, because this is not their culture! The NAAoG tried to control this situation by publishing strict rules. More and more non-Native American dancers left the association, because they thought the rules were too strict and ridgit and our approach should be less concern.
As time wore on, we received more and more criticism from Native Americans and the German public who came to our powwows. Native American guests who were expecting to see a powwow like the ones in the United States and Canada were very surprised when they saw all these non-Native American dancers in the dance arena. Some of them were upset and even left the event. The German audience asked questions, like, "But, they are not all Native Americans, aren't they?" or "Who is Indian and who is not?". It happened quite often that Germans are in the practice of inquiring in advance after reading the advance powwow announcement “if Native American singers and dancers will be present to sing and dance".
Several years ago we heard about powwow explosion in other European countries like in the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Sweden etc.. Today, powwows exist all over Europe which a majority of the singers and the dancers are non-Native Americans. The biggest events had up to 8 non-Native American drum groups singing Native American powwow songs and approximately 60-70 non-Native American dancers dancing in Native American regalia. Most of the time there are only a handful actual Native American singers and dancers who attend these events. In Europe "Powwow" does not necessarily mean that this is a Native American event.
Because of all these incidents we came to the conclusion that we have to draw a line between the Native American Association of Germany and the powwow hobbyist groups.
We do not want to be confused with these groups as it had happened a lot in the past. We want that our association represents a clear line.
So in 2007 we finally decided that we will not organize events which include non-Native Americans participating as dancers in Native American regalia. This decision was not easy to make. We know some Native Americans do not agree with this decision but, for the NAAoG this is the safest way in order to avoid arguments and misunderstandings as much as possible in the future.
We also recognize there are some non-Native Americans who dance with a lot of respect and dancing means a lot to them. Some of these dancers started to dance, because their close Native American friends invited them to dance together with them and helped them to make the regalia. We are apologetic for those very respectful non-Native American dancers who cannot dance wearing their regalia at our events anymore. Some of these dancers are sad and dissapointed, some left the association, but dancers who have the most respect for Native American culture understood why we had to make that decision.
At our events there will be only Native American dancers dancing in regalia and Native American singers singing the songs.
We would like to point out that we are open for dialogues and sharing experiences with other groups on the base of respect any time and that we also are willing to answer questions like we did before.
Board of Directors, NAAoG e. V.
The Native American Association of Germany e.V. - Building Bridges - Connecting People