By Don Lowe

The past, present and future of the Quapaw Nation comes alive early next month when the 152nd annual Quapaw Powwow takes center stage with its featured dancing customs. 

“The dance is a generational gathering for parents and their children, along with great-grandparents, great-uncles and great-aunts,” says Melany Shawnee, who serves as events coordinator. “They’ve all made their way home and taught loved ones the traditions of their tribes, their clans and their families. The families value these traditions. 

“It makes us happy to see Natives and non-Natives attend our gathering. Our tribe has always been a welcoming and hospitable community. This is one of the qualities that explorers noted in our Arkansas history upon first encountering the Quapaw.” 

There are so many activities at the powwow and Shawnee says, “Camping at the powwow grounds is something many of the tribal members and visitors from other tribes enjoy. It provides a time to visit with relatives and friends who traveled here. 

 “Some campers will cook traditional Native American foods such as corn and pork soup, hominy and beef soup, steamed and fried beef, fry bread and grape dumplings.” 

As for other festivities, Shawnee shares, “When children are brought into the arena to dance for the first time, an elder leads them and talks to them about what they feel in their hearts. 

“A special dance will follow where other family, friends and well-wishers join in and dance with the child in celebration of them being dressed in traditional clothing and joining in the dance for the first time.” 

Shawnee also explains, “Some may have a special dance where the male child is given his first Eagle feather to attach to his head piece. We call this being roached. The roach, or head piece, is handmade from deer and porcupine fur and the Eagle feather is affixed on top, standing in an upright position. 

“The Eagle feather is to always be respected and attached to the roach, so it never drops to the ground. We revere our Eagle feathers and hold them as sacred items.” 

There is reverence as well and Shawnee reminds, “Our powwow is also a time of remembering those who have passed away the year prior to the dance. 

“When family is ready, and according to the tradition they uphold, a memorial song will be sung for the family member, and loved ones will dance in remembrance of them. Anyone who wants to join in and show respect for the loved ones that have passed is welcome to dance. 

“Although we’re small, we have grown and are still growing and still alive and still celebrating. That’s a huge reason to celebrate the Quapaw people.” 

152nd Annual Quapaw Powwow Fast Facts 

When: July 4-7 from 7 p.m. to midnight or later. 

Physical Address: Quapaw Nation, Beaver Springs Park, 5681 S. 630 Road, Quapaw, Oklahoma. If weather doesn’t permit the outside event, it will be moved to Miami Civic Center Gymnasium, 129 5th Avenue, NW, Miami, Oklahoma. 

Email Address: Tony Shawnee, powwow chairman, may be reached at [email protected] or Melany Shawnee, events coordinator, may be reached at [email protected]. 

Website: Go to, click on Culture and then click on Annual Quapaw Powwow. 

Photos by: Drew Kimble 12-eighty one photography/O-Gah-Pah Communications


Gourd Dancing begins at 7 p.m. each night.

July 4 – Quapaw Night. Quapaw Nation members dress in traditional Quapaw dance clothing and compete in their dance categories. Dance competition categories include Women’s, Teens & Juniors Quapaw Cloth Dress, as well as Men’s, Teens & Juniors Straight Dance categories. First-, second- and third-place prizes awarded in each category. 

July 5 – Inter-tribal dancing; visitors will be invited to fill the arena and dance. Pictures from general seating area are allowed. No pictures with flashes allowed during competitions. Note: Do not touch any part of the outfits or competitors’ hair. Dance competition categories include Female Teens & Juniors Cloth Dress, Buckskin Dress, Fancy Shawl Dress & Jingle Dress. Male Teens & Juniors Straight Dance, Fancy Dance, Traditional Northern Dance and Grass. 

July 6 – Inter-tribal dancing with the public invited to join. Dance competition categories include Women’s Cloth Dress, Buckskin Dress, Fancy Shawl Dress & Jingle Dress. 

July 7 – More inter-tribal dancing with spectators again invited to join. Dance competition categories include Men’s Straight Dance, Fancy Dance, Traditional Northern Dance & Grass Dance, combined with Chicken Dance.