Pow Wow Drum Groups

During this time of the year, we are often asked about the types of Pow Wow Drum Groups in the area and which ones we would recommend to people wanting to learn more about the music often heard at our local, Plains Indian Pow Wows.

Once again, our in-house expert Frank comes to the rescue with some great recommendations!


[Frank] At Pow Wows, you have a great number of Drum Groups, depending on the size of the Pow Wow. At each and everyone, there will be local Drum Groups and a Host Drum that acts a host to the other groups.

We are often asked which type of Pow Wow music we would recommend for this area, which is made mostly of the Sioux (Lakota).

My first choice would be the Traditional Songs of the Sioux by the Ironwood Singers it was recorded live at the Rosebud Fair in 1976. For one thing they're local - Ironwood is a very small community on the Rosebud Reservation. Basically what they do on this CD is give the title of the song and a quick synopsis of what the song is about in English, so that way a non-Lakota speaking person would know what the song is about and who its honoring. It also includes a picture of the Drum Group.

The next group would be the Porcupine Singers. Ronnie Theisz, the man who wrote The Gift of Lakota Song, was also a member of the Porcupine Singers.

[Rose] So then he speaks from experience?

[Frank] Oh yes…he's traveled to many, many Pow Wows.

The Porcupine Singers come from Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In this collection, they also give the name of the song and a quick synopsis of what the song's about in Lakota and English.

[Rose] The songs aren't just about sound, they're actually telling a story.

[Frank] One good example comes from the Ironwood Singers. In fact, this is my favorite song, its called the Peace Song. This song is about a Congressman who visited the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

The synopsis explains:
This is a Peace Song between the white man and the Indian. It is sung for a white man who likes the Indian ways. In this location, it was sung for a visiting Congressman.

It was specially composed for that occasion…

[Frank] There are also different types of music.

This is a very informative CD. Its by Earl Bullhead and its called the Lakota Drum.

[Rose] Earl's been around for a long time, has many albums, and is very popular as well.

[Frank] I always recommend this CD to folks who would like to learn more, because what he covers in here are the the different drum beats. At Pow Wows, you'll hear a lot of different drum beats…for example, the Sneak Up Dance. It has a faster beat at the beginning, then it takes on the more traditional cadence (da, da, da), and then stops very suddenly…

[Rose}…and the dancers synchronize their steps to the drum beat, so when the drum stops, they have to stop.

[Frank] Yes…and Earl Bullhead goes through all the various Lakota dances and Pow Wow songs and explains each very well. So that way, if you go to a Sioux Indian (Lakota) Pow Wow, you'll be able to identify what type of song is being played - from the Rabbit Dance, Round Dance, and Sneak Up Dance to the Grass Dance and Fancy Dance.

Another CD by Earl Bullhead titled The Sound of Indian America. In this collection, Earl also goes through the different drum songs "traditional singing with Lakota and English narrative translation".