History of the Colorado Springs Powwow
The term “powwow” is the white man’s version of the Indian word “pau-wau” which originally stood for a healing ceremony conducted by the spiritual or religious leaders of various tribes. How the powwow got its exact start is not known, but it was thought to have originated with the Pawnee tribe as a religious ceremonial meeting, filled with dancing and other rituals. Other Indian tribes adopted the practice of the powwow and added their own traditions. Indians held these ceremonies to celebrate a successful hunt and to thank the spirits for a bountiful harvest. Powwows also spiritually prepared a warrior for an impending battle. Native Americans were big believers in all things living and spiritual and viewed life and death as an inevitable circle. Some of the powwow ceremonies they conducted celebrated this circle with tribal drums, dancing, food, chanting and traditional healing rituals. They acted out ancient stories handed through the generations, which kept their history alive.
In 2009, the Palmer Lake Historical Society (PLHS) sponsored its first outdoor Native American Intertribal Festival and Powwow next to the lake in the town of Palmer Lake. The Historical Society is a 501 (c) 3 educational nonprofit in Palmer Lake, Colorado, dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and protection of the history of the Palmer Divide. Since American Indians were the first inhabitants of the area, the PLHS decided to preserve and promote their history, traditions, and culture. The purpose of the event was to facilitate interaction between non-Natives and American Indians from local tribes. The summer day was filled with the sounds of Native drums and singers and the sight of dancers in full Native dress (regalia). Attendees could buy Native made items and sample Native food. Approximately 200 members of the local community attended this first powwow. By 2012, the annual powwow attracted almost 500 people. Eventually, with the lake drying up, wild fires and summer temperatures reaching the mid-90s, the PLHS decided to move the event indoors.
In 2013, the Palmer Lake Historical Society partnered with One Nation Walking Together, a local Native American charity in Colorado Springs, and moved the powwow indoors to the Colorado Springs Freedom Financial Services EXPO Center, now the Mortgage Solutions Financial EXPO Center. That year attendance approached 2,000 people. In 2014, attendance grew to almost 3,000 people, with 50 Native artist booths, 20 nonprofit booths, live wolf and birds of prey exhibits, Aztec Dancers, an Indian teaching lodge and several Native food vendors. In 2016, One Nation Walking Together became the principal sponsor of the powwow, which continues to add new activities, Native vendors, and family-oriented events. Over the years the small, lakeside powwow started by the Palmer Lake Historical Society has grown to one of the largest Indian festivals and powwows in the area. We hope to continue this cultural event into the future.