Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition


Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition

Grant Arndt

352 pages
9 photographs, index


June 2016


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2016


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2016


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Ho-Chunk powwows are the oldest powwows in the Midwest and among the oldest in the nation, beginning in 1902 outside Black River Falls in west-central Wisconsin. Grant Arndt examines Wisconsin Ho-Chunk powwow traditions and the meanings of cultural performances and rituals in the wake of North American settler colonialism. As early as 1908 the Ho-Chunk people began to experiment with the commercial potential of the powwows by charging white spectators an admission fee. During the 1940s the Ho-Chunk people decided to de-commercialize their powwows and rededicate dancing culture to honor their soldiers and veterans. Powwows today exist within, on the one hand, a wider commercialization of and conflict between intertribal “dance contests” and, on the other, efforts to emphasize traditional powwow culture through a focus on community values such as veteran recognition, warrior songs, and gift exchange.

In Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition Arndt shows that over the past two centuries the dynamism of powwows within Ho-Chunk life has changed greatly, as has the balance of tradition and modernity within community life. His book is a groundbreaking study of powwow culture that investigates how the Ho-Chunk people create cultural value through their public ceremonial performances, the significance that dance culture provides for the acquisition of power and recognition inside and outside their communities, and how the Ho-Chunk people generate concepts of the self and their society through dancing.

Author Bio

Grant Arndt is an associate professor of anthropology and American Indian studies at Iowa State University and coeditor of Native Chicago.


"Arndt's depth of knowledge of the topic and excellent scholarship shine in this book. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Native American culture and traditions."—Julie Goodrich, Iowa History Journal

"Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition is a creatively conceptualized, well-written, and meticulously researched volume that extends our understanding of the Ho-Chunk experience in the twentieth century and the history of cultural performance."—Amy Lonetree, Public Historian

"I recommend this book, especially to students of the powwow, as there is little knowledge to be found dedicated to the Ho-Chunk powwow tradition."—Louis Garcia, Tribal College Journal

"A nuanced examination of the power of performance among the Ho-Chunk."—Katrina Phillips, Native American and Indigenous Studies

“A fine work and a welcome addition to the literature. Arndt elaborates nuanced meanings of Ho-Chunk powwows in historical and cultural context, and just as important, he does much to uncover the more complex workings and dynamics of powwows today.”—Luke Eric Lassiter, author of The Power of Kiowa Song: A Collaborative Ethnography

“In this important new work, Grant Arndt reminds us that the powwow is more than dancing. It is a gathering with deep connections to widely shared values and practices that affirm the continuing vitality of Ho-Chunk identity and culture.”—Clyde Ellis, author of A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: Into the Arena

1. When Worlds Collide: Culture and Catastrophe in the Nineteenth Century

2. Gifts and Profits: On the Origins of the Powwow

3. "Time Works Changes, Even to the People of the Red Races": The Rise and Fall of the Commercial Powwow

4. Something More than Patriotism: War, Veterans, and the Return of the Powwow

5. Calling the People Together: Powwows in the Era of Nation-Rebuilding

6. Producing a Space for Culture: Powwows in the Early Twenty-First Century

Conclusion: Experimenting with the Expectations of Tradition




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