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

Avoid—cultural appropriation



noun or verb

We would recommend adding a content warning when speaking about this term. Please read 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).


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.


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

Something not quite right?

If you found a typo, would like to add another resource, or add nuance to this definition, please feel free to submit an issue or open a pull request.


Previous words

Next words