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Wacipi Dance

What Is Wacipi?

The Wacipi (pronounced wah-chee-pee), or Pow Wow, is a traditional Native American celebration of life. It is a time when people gather together to dance, sing, and celebrate, while renewing friendships, old and new. Meaning “they dance” in the Dakota language, the Wacipi has transcended generations and has taken on new forms and meanings over the years. Historically, it was a time to gather at the end of a season, to celebrate a good hunt, or to recognize a positive event. While the dances still hold sacred ceremonial meaning for those who participate, today’s Wacipi has evolved into a contest Pow Wow, where dancers and drum groups compete for top honors and prize money.

What happens at Wacipi?

The SMSC Wacipi is a contest Pow Wow, where dancers compete in several different categories of dance styles and in age groups, typically Junior, Teen, Adult, Golden Age, or Elders. Wacipi begins with a blessing of the dance circle, called the Arena. A Grand Entry ceremony is held on each day of Wacipi (and twice on Saturday), prior to the start of the dance contests and exhibitions. Each Grand Entry begins with a Native American veteran color guard carrying in the eagle staff and flags, followed by the entrance of visiting dignitaries, tribal royalty, and the dancers, categorized by dance style. After all the dancers have entered the circle, a prayer is said. A drum group then sings a Flag Song and a Veterans Song. As a sign of respect, attendees are asked to stand, if they are able, and remove their hats. Then, the Master of Ceremonies, called Wapaha in Dakota, calls for intertribal dancing, allowing everyone to dance, no regalia necessary. Contest and exhibition dancing happens next, with the Wapaha announcing each of the categories.
Wacipi Dance Group

Etiquette

We invite everyone to learn about and experience our culture and way of life firsthand throughout Wacipi weekend. Because there are many sacred aspects to this event, please read and adhere to the following guidelines. Knowing a little bit about various customs will help you feel more comfortable as you take in and enjoy the event.

Be Respectful

Wacipi is a sacred gathering. We ask that visitors please be respectful at all times. Please refrain from talking during prayers. At the beginning of Wacipi during Grand Entry and during Honor Songs and prayers, everyone will be asked to stand, if they are able, and remove their hats as the veteran color guard presents the eagle staff and flags. Please remain standing as the veterans, visiting dignitaries, tribal royalty, and dancers enter the Arena. The Master of Ceremonies will indicate when it is appropriate to stand during various songs and prayers throughout Wacipi. If you are elderly or have a medical condition, it is fine to sit if needed.

The Arena

The Arena has a grassy, sacred middle area and has been blessed for the gathering. Prayers have been said, and tobacco has been offered to the Creator. In the very center of the Arena are flag poles and holders for eagle staffs and flags. The Arena is not an area for smoking, is not an area for children to play, and should not be used to cut across or as a shortcut. This area should be treated like a church.

Handshaking Is Done More Gently

Handshaking is a way to acknowledge and show respect for someone you are meeting. In Native American culture, handshaking is typically done more gently, with intention.

Dancers’ Regalia

Always ask before touching anyone’s regalia, as some regalia is sacred or has been ritually purified. Regalia often shows designs, colors, and other ornamentation that represent the wearer’s tribe, family, or political or marital status.

Drum Groups

Because the drum holds special significance, please do not touch any of the drums or drumsticks. Please avoid walking between the chairs and the drum.

Eagle Feather/Fallen Warrior Ceremonies

This ceremony is conducted when an eagle feather falls to the ground. Veterans retrieve the “Fallen Warrior.” Please note: Photography is not allowed during this ceremony.

FAQ

How much does it cost to attend?

Admission is completely free! The SMSC made the decision in 2019 to eliminate entrance fees in order to make the event accessible to anyone and everyone interested in attending.

Will there be a free meal provided?

Given the discontinuation of entrance fees, no free meal will be provided at this year’s Wacipi. However, guests will have the opportunity to sample the many delicious food options available for purchase from the event’s vendors, including fry bread, Indian tacos, burgers, lemonade, ice cream, and more!

Tribal Royalty

Contemporary Pow Wows often feature braves and princesses, or tribal royalty. These individuals represent their respective tribal nations and act as ambassadors for their people. These individuals are selected through a contest, where they may display their knowledge of their language, history, dancing ability, or a combination of all three skills.

Dance Competitions

Today, the SMSC’s Wacipi is a contest Pow Wow, where dancers compete in dance categories and age groups, including Tiny Tots, Junior, Teen, Junior and Senior Adult, Golden Age, and Elders. There are exhibitions and contests throughout the three-day event, including dance categories such as Men’s Fancy, Grass, Jingle, and Southern Buckskin, among others. Drum groups are invited to participate in our Wacipi as well. The Master of Ceremonies sometimes calls for intertribal dancing, allowing everyone to dance together.

Wacipi Committee

The Wacipi Committee is a dedicated group of Community Members who work diligently to plan and organize the annual event.

Ceremonies and Traditions

Specials: Throughout a Wacipi, honorary dances and ceremonies called “Specials” are integrated, usually celebrating a specific individual.

Fallen Warrior Ceremony: If an eagle feather falls to the ground, an Eagle Feather/Fallen Warrior Ceremony is held for veterans to retrieve the “Fallen Warrior.” The SMSC has the highest respect for wambdi, the eagle. The eagle flies higher than any other being and carries prayers to the Creator. Possession of an eagle feather is an honor. Eagle feathers are usually received as a gift from a relative, spiritual teacher, or from the eagle himself. Please note: Photography is not allowed during this ceremony.

Giveaway: A Giveaway is a tradition when someone has been honored or a major accomplishment is reached. The Master of Ceremonies announces the purpose of the Giveaway, and then simple, everyday gifts are given to the honoree. Blankets and special gifts, like Star Quilts, are given to individuals who have helped the family. Visitors are sometimes given small gifts as well. It is considered impolite to refuse a gift if given. A Giveaway is generally followed by a Wopida (Thank You) song and dance, where everyone who has received a gift is invited to participate in a round dance.

Naming Ceremonies: Naming Ceremonies are used when families want to give a spiritual or Native American name to an individual. A spiritual leader or respected elder performs this ceremony, and a Giveaway and Honor Song typically follow. Please note: Photography is not allowed during this ceremony.

Honor Songs: Honor Songs commemorate an individual who has passed away or achieved a significant accomplishment, such as graduating from school, being selected as royalty, or serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Everyone is invited to shake hands with the individual and family.

About the Wacipi Grounds

3212 Dakotah Parkway
Shakopee, MN 55379

The SMSC’s Wacipi Grounds are located just north of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and south of County Road 42, between county roads 83 and 17 (Marschall Road). The Wacipi Grounds provide ample parking. Golf carts are available to transport guests from the parking lot to the grounds at no charge. Please give priority to elderly guests and those who may need extra assistance, such as families with small children. No pets are allowed on the Wacipi Grounds, with the exception of service dogs.