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What To Know About North America's Largest Pow Wow

At EXPO New Mexico, we’re proud to be home to some of the best immersive culture you can experience anywhere in the nation. Offerings include venues such as Indian Village, the African American Pavilion and Villa Hispana where state fair attendees can enjoy dances, music and foods unique to the cultures they represent, as well as Native American and Hispanic Art galleries with remarkable works by local artists. Additionally, thanks to the Gathering of Nations, EXPO NM is fortunate to be the site of North America’s biggest Pow Wow.

To the credit of a dream by Derek Mathews, the founder, along with the Mathews family, the Gathering of Nations (GON) Pow Wow is one of the most culturally rich and spectacular experiences in the world and it has a distinctive history on the fairgrounds at EXPO New Mexico. For a brief period in the early 1980s, it was held at the state fair horse arena however the event quickly outgrew the space, and soon moved to the Pit at the University of New Mexico, for 30 years. In 2017, we were pleased to forge a relationship with the GON and welcome them back to EXPO New Mexico’s property. With the new partnership, GON utilizes a much larger footprint within the property which transforms each Spring into the “Pow Wow Grounds” including use of Tingley Coliseum for the grand entry and the most traditional feature of the Pow Wow. Each year over 3,000 dancers and singers from over 600 Native tribes and bands from throughout the USA and Canada participate.

For those unfamiliar, you may be curious about what takes place at a Pow Wow and what to expect if you’re attending. We’re sharing what we’ve learned from attending the event. Let’s take it from the beginning and answer some of the most common Pow Wow questions:

When is the 2024 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow?

The 41st Annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow will be held on the weekend of April 26 & 27, 2024.

What is a Pow Wow?

According to powwows.com, “Pow wows are Native American gatherings that include singing, dancing, food, crafts, and reconnecting with old friends. Powwows are a way for Native people to celebrate and share inter-tribal traditions.”

According to the official website, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow includes Competition Native American Singing and Dancing, featuring over 3,000 participants from Tribes across North America. GON includes Stage 49 (contemporary music/performance stage), Indian Traders Market (over 400 arts and crafts vendors), Native Food Court, Horse & Rider Regalia Parade, Teepee Village and more. This year the Gathering of Nations is welcoming the second annual Motorcycle ride to the Gathering of Nations. This Native motorcycle ride is organized by the all-women bike club known as Red Spirit. The purpose of the ride is to bring additional focus on the Miss Indigenous Women and men efforts, with over 200 bikers both Native and non-Native expected to participate.

What is the Grand Entry?

It is difficult to describe the grand entry in a way that does justice to the culturally and visually rich experience. It is, in one word, magnificent. The grand entry takes place at the beginning of the Pow Wow. Elders, dignitaries and dancers wearing regalia lead the way into the round arena with traditional eagle staffs that represent participating Tribes while converging in dance. It is said that the origin of the grand entry comes from the old Wild West Shows. Prior to that the Pow Wow began when the drummers began to sing and the dancers entered the dance area from their camps.

Will there be food?

In a PBS story about Native American food, chef Nico Albert (Cherokee Nation) captures the essence of the importance of appreciating and sharing food within Native American culture:“….Indigenous foods, in particular, are imbued with a history of both comfort and pathos that reaches far beyond the ingredients themselves.”

The GON Pow Wow not only includes incredible dance and music, but also showcases some wonderful traditional foods available for purchase. Food offerings typically include frybread, Indian tacos, mutton stew, and corn, as well as non-traditional comfort foods and other treats.

What other activities take place on the Pow Wow Grounds?

The Gathering of Nations features a variety of incredible events associated with the Pow Wow, including:

  • Miss Indian World – each year a new Miss Indian World is named as part of the Gathering. Young Indigenous women ages 18 to 25 compete for the prestigious title and the selected Miss Indian World serves as a cultural goodwill ambassador representing Native American and First Nations Tribal Cultures throughout the world. The Crowning of the New Miss Indian World takes place on Saturday evening, after the grand entry inside Tingley Coliseum.

Note: It is important to note that Miss Indian World talent presentations take place on Friday, April 25th at the Kiva Auditorium.

  • Stage 49 – Stage 49 is the live music hub for much of the GON’s diverse entertainment lineup. It provides established and emerging Indigenous artists a venue to share their musical talents. Genres include rock, blues, country, reggae, hip hop and more, with amazing performances throughout the day and evening on Friday and Saturday.
  • Indian Traders Market – Featuring over four hundred vendors, the Gathering brings together an exceptional variety of the best in Native American art, jewelry, craft, clothing, and quilters, as well as craft traders and suppliers. Health, wellness and educational vendors will also be on hand to share the latest in holistic and healing products and information.
  • Horse & Rider Parade – the Traditional Horse & Rider Parade honors the horse culture synonymous with many North American Native Tribes’ way of life. Horses and riders are adorned in traditional Native American regalia with styles reflective of the various Tribal Nations.

Should I purchase advance tickets?

While tickets will be available at the event, for convenience and ease of entry, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance. You can purchase tickets on the GON website, www.gatheringofnations.com.

The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which attendees leave inspired, enlightened and determined to return the next year. We highly recommend that you set aside time on your calendar to attend the world-renowned event later this month.

Derek and the Mathews Family invite and welcome everyone to attend the 41st annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. Take lots of photos, enjoy the music, singing/ dancing, great and tasty foods, and “shop till you drop” in the Indian Traders Market.

Want to learn more about the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow? You can find all the important details on their website,www.gatheringofnations.com

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