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The New Tradition Of Powwow Princesses

Pat Deiter

Powwow Princess-Misty Dawn Mintuck
The crowning of a powwow princess is a celebration intended
to honour a young girl's commitment to lead an Indian life.

95-96 Kahkewewistahaw Powwow Princess-Misty Dawn Mintuck

The princess's honour is shared by her relatives who have made the effort to teach their traditional ways to a new generation. The honouring of a young female represents the community's hope that her children will also follow an Indian way.

The powwow princess is selected for a variety of cultural factors including her ability as a dancer, the quality of her outfit and her family's willingness to support her financially through ticket sales.

The concept of a princess is not part of traditional culture for First Nations people of the Plains who did not have a royalty system of kings and princesses. Early European travellers and traders created the myth of "Indian royalty" based on their European style of government. The intent of today's First Nation communities is to encourage young girls in traditional ways so that as mothers they will continue to practice an First Nation way of life.

Oral tradition relates that the powwow princess was introduced following the tradition of rodeo queens who promoted the western lifestyle by attending parades and other rodeo events.

The powwow princess tradition was started in the United States and came to First Nations in Canada by the 1970s. Once, women were excluded from the roles of announcer, committee members and singers. By honouring the powwow princess, the role of the females were included and encouraged.

Powwow princesses also serve as fundraisers and ambassadors for their communities. The vision of a young First Nation woman carrying the pride of her people in her heart is a powerful image of hope for First Nations people and the powwow celebration.