As the mild temperatures of fall’s Indian Summer descend upon Oklahoma, the state’s renowned American Indian heritage is brought to life with a variety of Native American festivals, events and powwows.
Traditional dance is an important part of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society Ceremonial held in Anadarko each year.
Oklahoma has a rich and varied American Indian culture.
Oklahoma’s rich Native American heritage is famously diverse, as 67 tribal nations have called this land home. With fall ushering in cooler temperatures, gorgeous foliage and a vibrant event season, you can experience Oklahoma’s diversity firsthand by attending a number of time-honored Native American events held throughout the state.
These events, which range from single tribe celebrations to large intertribal powwows, are key to keeping the traditions of Oklahoma’s Native American ancestors alive. Tap into the spirit of the powwow by witnessing Native dancing, singing and artistry. Mesmerizing colors captivate and soulful sounds resonate during these activities, where customs are preserved for the future.
Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival & Powwow - Tuskahoma
An incredibly popular send-off to summer in early September, the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival & Powwow is an impressive showcase of Choctaw Nation traditions. This event, which seems to increase in size every year, features everything from an intertribal powwow to live performances by some of music’s biggest stars. Watch as Miss Choctaw Nation is crowned at the Choctaw Princess Pageant, visit the Choctaw Village to see flint knapping, stickball and silversmith demonstrations, and witness the intense competition of the annual stickball tournament. Hang around for free concerts – past performers include Ronnie Milsap, Travis Tritt and Vince Gill.
Visitors to the annual Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival are also invited to take tours of the Choctaw Nation Museum and view the art show held there. Make sure to attend the intertribal powwow and admire the vibrant regalia of the American Indian dancers during the gourd dance, grand entry and dance competitions. The men and boys compete in dance categories including straight, traditional, grass and fancy dance, while the women and girls compete in cloth, buckskin, jingle dress and fancy shawl dance categories.
Standing Bear Powwow - Ponca City
The renowned Standing Bear Powwow, one of the most significant, long-standing Native American events in the country, brings together the six north-central tribes of Oklahoma for displays of spectacular regalia and intertribal dancing in late September. Come to this free public event to witness the breathtaking movement of dance around Ponca City’s outdoor powwow grounds, as well as the crowning of the Standing Bear Princess. The event begins with gourd dancing, leading straight to the grand entry, where all powwow participants line up to display the pageantry and spirit of the powwow. Check out various arts and craft booths featuring jewelry, sculpture, paintings and more, then stick around Saturday night for a traditional meal of corn soup and fry bread. Members of the Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, Ponca and Tonkawa tribes will all be represented.
Powwow of Champions - Tulsa
Make your way to Tulsa to see the powerful sights and sounds of Native dancers overtake the Mabee Center during the annual Powwow of Champions event. A major intertribal competition, the Powwow of Champions celebrates the artistry of traditional dancers as they stomp and twirl around the arena to the intoxicating beat of drums. Browse eye-catching paintings, pottery, jewelry, clothing and crafts in the Native American arts and crafts market before checking out the powwow, or simply grab an Indian taco and settle in to watch the grand entry, followed by a variety of dance competitions. From junior girls’ buckskin and jingle dancing to senior men’s traditional, straight and grass dancing, you’ll witness precise dance steps set to powerful drumbeats as the dancers compete for top honors.
Mesmerizing colors captivate and soulful sounds resonate during these events, where customs are preserved for the future.
Cherokee National Holiday - Tahlequah
Immerse yourself in Cherokee heritage at the Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah. This event, a gathering of Native American families and communities, commemorates the signing of the Cherokee Constitution in 1839 following the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma. Open to the public and founded in 1953, this event has expanded to feature a juried art show, arts and crafts booths, a car show, and a competitive stickball game, among many other activities.