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Wacipi: Frequently asked questions

Dancers, singers, and visitors from across the country will gather at the SMSC Annual Wacipi (Pow Wow) for a weekend of dancing, singing, visiting, and shopping August 17-19, 2012.

Below are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about the Wacipi.

How much is admission?
Admission, which is $5 for the entire weekend, includes an evening meal on Saturday and lunch on Sunday catered by Mystic Lake Casino Hotel as well as a commemorative button and Wacipi Program. Admission is free to elders 60 and older and children 10 and under. Parking is free. All dancers must have a Wacipi button.

Who can attend?
The general public is invited to attend. Dancers in regalia can register to dance and participate in the dance contests. Twelve invited drums will provide the songs.

Where is the Wacipi?
The SMSC Wacipi Grounds are located just north of Mystic Lake Casino at the Wacipi Grounds and south of County Road 42 between County Road 83 and County Road 17 (Marschall Road). The address is 3212 Dakotah Parkway, Prior Lake, Minnesota 55372.

When is the dancing?
Grand Entries will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday; 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday; and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Are you having fireworks this year?
Fireworks will be held at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 18, 2012, at the Wacipi Grounds.

Is there a church service this year?
A non-denominational church service will be held on Sunday, August 19, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. at nearby Tiowakan Spiritual Center. Pastor Jerry Zephier of Ho Waste Teca Parish will preside.

When is the flag raising?
Flag raising will be held at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Where do we park?
The SMSC Wacipi Grounds has ample free parking. Golf carts are available at no charge to transport guests from the parking lot to the grounds. Please give priority to elderly guests and those who many need extra assistance, such as those with small children.

What is Grand Entry?
The Grand Entry begins each session of dancing. The first to enter the arena are veterans carrying the Eagle feather staff and national, state, tribal, and veterans’ flags. Then visiting dignitaries and royalty enter. They are followed by all the dancers in a continuous line by category ultimately forming a large circle inside the arena.

Why does the Grand Entry always begin with a prayer?
As is customary, all Dakota gatherings begin with a prayer to the Creator.

What are royalty?
Royalty are youths who have been selected competitively to represent a specific Wacipi. They usually serve a one-year term in which they travel to Wacipis around the country representing their particular Wacipi. They represent all that is good in the youth of today. The SMSC Wacipi does not select royalty to represent the SMSC at other Wacipis.

Why do so many people shake hands at the Wacipi?
Shaking hands is an important acknowledgement of another person. It says, “I acknowledge you as a fellow spiritual being on this path of life. I am glad to see you.” In the Dakota culture in a social or professional setting, you shake hands any time you see someone you know. Any time you are introduced to someone, it is appropriate to shake hands. This is generally done very gently, not forcefully as is customary in the non-Indian business world. Native children learn this custom at a young age.

Why is there so much laughter at the Wacipi?
Don’t be surprised to hear lots of laughter, joking, and gentle teasing. Humor is important to Native peoples because laughter is a gift from the Creator. All of life is a gift from the Creator. The Wacipi, the Pow Wow, is a celebration of that life, of that gift.

Why do we stand during Grand Entry, Honor Songs, and prayers?
It is a sign of respect. If you are elderly or have a medical condition, you may remain seated if you need to. During prayers, please show respect by refraining from talking and remove your hat or cap.

What do the Arena Directors do?
They are responsible for keeping everything in the arena running smoothly. They line up the dancers for Grand Entry, set up the dance categories, select judges, and generally manage the inner workings of the Wacipi. Their role is very important and is respected.

What do the Masters of Ceremony do? 
Their responsibility is to keep the dancers, singers, and crowd informed. They will explain the dance styles, tell jokes and anecdotes about dancers and staff, and generally keep the action moving. They will call the dance categories and announce the winners. They are an important part of the Wacipi.

Why are veterans honored so prominently?
Traditionally, the Dakota honored warriors who fought to protect the people and their way of life. As the United States was formed, warriors continued that fight which today is in the form of serving in the United States Armed Services. Indian people serve in the Armed Forces at the highest rate of any ethnic group in this country. Lakota and Navajo Codetalkers have been recognized in recent years for their contributions during World War II. The willingness of veterans to serve to protect the people of this continent is held in high regard by all Indian people. We are honored to have Veterans at our Wacipi, and we thank them for their service. Veterans are greatly esteemed not only for their willingness to serve and protect others, but also for their willingness to offer their lives to keep others safe.

Why are elders honored?
Elders are held in high esteem in the Dakota culture. They have lived their lives, learning along the way, and gladly share their wisdom and insight with others. We have much to learn from our elders. Dancers who are elders are especially looked after and honored. Elders are invited to eat first at the dining tent.

What is an Honor Song?
An Honor Song is sung for an individual who has passed into the Spirit World, graduated from school, received an accolade, or perhaps received an Indian name. Everyone is invited to come and pay their respects by gently shaking the hands of the family of the one honored and then joining the line behind them to finish the dance around the arena.

What is special about the arena?
The arena contains a grassy area which is sacred land. It has been blessed for the gathering. Prayers have been said, and tobacco has been offered to the Creator. This is not an area where children are invited to play. Treat this area like a church. There is no smoking in the dance area inside the arena. Also, this is not an area for the public to cut across or use as a short cut. Do not walk across the arena or allow your children to run in the arena. Do not eat or drink while dancing or during prayers or Honor Songs. If it is very, very hot, then small water bottles are allowed in the Arena. In the very middle of the Arena are flag poles and holders for Eagle feather staffs.

What is the Eagle Feather/Fallen Warrior Ceremony?
When an Eagle feather falls to the ground, there is a special ceremony for veterans to retrieve the Fallen Warrior. We have the highest respect for the Eagle, the Wambdi. The Eagle flies higher than any other being and carries prayers to the Creator. Possession of Eagle feathers is an honor; they are usually received as a gift from a relative, spiritual teacher, or from the Eagle himself. Please, no photographs during this ceremony.

What is a Giveaway?
A giveaway is a tradition dating back in history but continuing today. When someone has been honored or has had a major accomplishment in their life, that person’s family will have a Giveaway. The Master of Ceremony announces the purpose of the Giveaway and then gifts are given to the people. Families accumulate items for a Giveaway for an entire year. Items include simple everyday goods like towels and laundry baskets, blankets, and star quilts. Special items, like blankets, are given to individuals who have helped the family. Visitors are sometimes given small gifts, including cake. It is considered impolite to refuse a gift if given. It is generally followed by a wopida (thank you) song and dance where everyone who has received a gift is invited to participate in the round dance.

What is a Naming Ceremony?
Families sometimes give a spiritual or “Indian” name to an individual. A spiritual leader or respected elder performs this ceremony and usually a Giveaway and Honor Song follow. Photographs are not permitted.

What is an Intertribal?
An intertribal is a dance where dancers in regalia are joined by friends and relatives not necessarily in regalia to dance together in the arena. All tribes, all dance styles, all ages are welcome.

What is a Round Dance?
A Round Dance is a social dance for all ages and genders to dance together. It is performed in a circle moving clockwise, sometimes holding hands, often done after a Giveaway or Honor Song.

What is the Drum Group Competition?
The Drum Group Competition is a fun closing to the weekend’s festivities and a way for drum groups to earn some extra spending money while the results from the contests are being tabulated. The competition may be a humorous spoof of Wacipi activities or related to a popular movie or television show. The Wacipi Committee generally keeps the competition a secret until it is announced moments before the contest begins. Each year is something different. In previous years the competition has included a Team Dance where male members from each drum borrowed regalia from dancers and competed in a Team Dance. Another option was a competition where lead singers started a song without the drum and then their drum group had to complete the song without them. Singing popular karaoke songs was also popular. One year wheelbarrow and chariot races were popular with the crowd. The audience usually decides the winners of these events by their applause.

What: Annual Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi
When: Friday through Sunday, August 17, 18, and 19, 2012
Where: Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi Grounds
3212 Dakotah Parkway, Prior Lake, Minnesota 55372
Times: Grand Entries will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday
1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, with fireworks at 10:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. on Sunday, with church services at 10:00 a.m. at nearby Tiowakan Spiritual Center.
The flag raising will be held at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Cost: Admission is free to elders 60 and older and children 10 and under. Parking is free. Admission, which is $5 for the entire weekend, includes an evening meal on Saturday and lunch on Sunday catered by Mystic Lake Casino Hotel as well as a commemorative button and Wacipi Program.

For more information: call the Shakopee Wacipi Information Line at 952-392-8964 or go to or


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