Self-Defined

A modern dictionary about us.
We define our words, but they don't define us.

Avoid—cultural appropriation

pow-wow

Speech

noun or verb

We would recommend adding a content warning when speaking about this term. Pleaseread the guidance on how and when to warn people before using this term in any context.

comes from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning "spiritual leader; (also spelled powwow, powaw, pawaw, powah, pauwau and pawau); social gathering, ceremony, or celebrations held in different Native American communities that can be spiritually symbolic in nature, involve dancing and regalia, and involve months of planning with hundreds of people in attendance; colloquially is culturally appropriated and used to mean "to meet" (verb) or meeting, working session, or gathering (noun).

Issue

Non-Native/non-Indigenous people using pow-wow outside of the context of its Native American meaning and significance is culturally appropriation through terminology.

Using culturally appropriative language while Native American and Indigenous people are systematically harmed reinforces settler colonial oppression.

Impact

Cultural appropriation is problematic because it robs the culture from the people without their consent, while the people behind the culture are left behind and systemically excluded from the spaces using their culture.

Using Native and Indigenous culture outside of its intended meaning also demeans its value to the culture. Connoting that your five-person meeting about making an app is somehow the same as culturally significant event minimises what powwows are.

Further Reading

You may want to add a content warning before discussing or showing imagery involving this topic, as it is a topic that can elicit unnecessary harm through inducing negative feelings, anxiety, or trauma.

Content warnings usually take the form of "Content warning: pow-wow" or "CW: pow-wow. We recommend the former when possible.

Content warnings should be given at the earliest possible opportunity. Examples of where you can do this are:

  • Articles under the byline, before content
  • Videos (with proper audio descriptions)
  • Photographs (with proper alt text)
  • Podcasts (before topic, in transcript)
  • Books (introductory page, summary)
  • Conference talks/webinars
  • Start of social media posts including this term
  • Social media posts with a link to content including this term

Browse

Previous words

Next words