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A giveaway is a special ceremony, usually at a Native American Pow Wow, to commemorate a life-changing event, whereby gifts are given by the person requesting the ceremony to others who have helped them or traveled far to honor them in the event itself. If you are familiar with the works of J. R.R. Tolkien, it is not entirely unlike a hobbit's birthday. It is an event that generates a lot of honor for the tribe and for the person(s) requesting the giveaway, as well as for those who are given gifts. The type of life-changing event, the presents that are given away, and the manner in which everything is performed determines how much honor is bestowed all around.

Each Native American tribe will have it's own special house rules for giveaways at their Pow Wows, but there are a few overall considerations that are fairly constant:
  • You need to know WHAT to EXPECT before I go into too much further detail. Again, each tribe handles it differently, but the general order of a giveaway is this:
    • An announcement is made by the Master of Ceremonies that XXX wishes to "buy a song" in honor of YYY.
    • You or ZZZ (your Announcer, if any), will then introduce you to the audience, probably citing some lineage, and explain why you wish to honor the tribe with your giveaway. Note: I recommend having an announcer, unless you know exactly what you are doing, and from whom you are descended for about four generations back and several steps sideways.
    • If you wish to say a few words before the dance, now is the time to say them, after the introduction.
    • The dance begins, with you in the lead. Hopefully you watched some others and learned the steps ahead of time. They aren't complex, but the footwork can be a bit tricky.
    • The dance ends. A family member or friend fetches the giveaway gifts up to the front of the line, while the announcer continues talking, and others come by to offer congratulations.
    • You give money to the Head Drummer, the Pow Wow Committee, and most likely, the Announcer.
    • One by one, the Announcer calls up the rest of those to be given gifts.
    • Ceremony ends, and any remaining gifts are given away in a more casual personal ceremony, usually at the family campground.

  • TIME and TIMING is precious at any Pow Wow, and while a giveaway is never considered a waste of time, it is a time-consuming event. The gifts handed out at a giveaway ceremony are usually reserved for those who have really helped you achieve this life-changing event, have traveled a very long way to observe it (as in, halfway across the U.S.), or representatives of specifics groups (such as Veterans or Elders).
    • Gifts to family and friends should be held privately either before or afterward. Technically, you can give as many gifts as you want, to as many people as you want, but it is far better to err on the side of courtesy, time wise, than it is to show off publicly how many presents you can give.
    • You will want to clear the giveaway with the Pow Wow committee a week or two in advance if possible. Perhaps longer if your tribe's Pow Wows are particularly well-attended each year. While it is possible to be squeezed in at the last minute, it is considered rude not to give the committee time to schedule everything in. They might suggest a particular day and time, though you are free to request one if those you are giving to will not be there except for that time.
    • Once the day of the big event happens, it is a good idea to visit the committee and confirm. They should be able to give you a somewhat narrower timeframe (e.g. "As soon as the switch-dances are over, which start at 4pm").
    • Make sure you are prepared before you begin the ceremony. Everyone involved should know what they are expected to do, and when. Not only will it be embarrassing to have to stop in the middle to sort things out, but you will be using up time, and time is precious.
    • Typically, the event will happen during the afternoon, and not at night. Night is a time for the dances, contests, and other activities. It is not that the giveaway is any less important, but rather that the nighttime activities are usually what others have come to the Pow Wow to see. A giveaway at night might be described as "inappropriate".

  • The BIG THREE group representatives that should generally always be gifted, and specifically with cash, are: The Head Drummer, The Head of the Pow Wow Committee, The Master of Ceremonies/Announcer. When giving this gift, it is usually best to have the money folded up, in your palm, and shake the person's hand. Give it one good pump, passing the money off surreptitiously, and then step back. The money will not be counted in public. It is usually best to give in increments of $20 USD, as this is often the most easily divisible.
    • The Drummers usually do not get paid by the Pow Wow committee. They are volunteers who are often singing and drumming the entire weekend. The only funds they acquire for their services are those that are donated. It is only right and proper to honor them. The Head Drummer will usually be the only one you give money to, and he will evenly distribute the money to the others. Alternately, instead of the handshake, the money can be laid on the drum in front of the Head Drummer, who often sits to the east of the drums. If you are giving a different amount of money to all three of these main honors, this should get the medium amount.
    • The money for the Pow Wow committee goes towards next year's Pow Wow, or desperately needed improvements to the Pow Wow grounds. Of all the money generated, it is most important to give to this one, and should command your largest sum of giveaway money.
    • The Announcer may or may not need a gift, talk to everyone you can, several times. I was personally told not to give the Announcer money five times, then found myself embarrassed at the end of my ceremony when several others asked why I did not gift the Announcer. As I had already given all my giveaway cash out, I had to dip into the return-trip home money and give him a gift out of turn. Of the three, the Announcer generally commands the least amount of money from the giveaway.

  • GIFTS can range in price from totally free, hand-made items, to thousands of dollars. Generally, though, a giveaway gift should be something useful or crafted, or both. Indian Blankets are a favorite, though to get a good one, prices start in the hundreds and go up from there. Towels, flower pots, shawls, ribbon shirts, fancy beadwork, cooking implements...items that generally run along this theme. Of course if you are filthy rich, then I'm sure no one would complain about receiving a Humvee or Winnebago (both of which are useful).
    • Different people receive gifts differently. You may end up with a very somber individual who shakes your hand once, and then leaves. You may end up hugged and kissed. The reception of your gift may even be used to comic effect to elicit a laugh. Whatever your preconceptions of how someone should receive a gift, this is the time to leave them behind. Whatever you give, no matter how big, or how small, will bring honor and luck to your tribe.
    • One might think the number or price of the gifts given would determine the amount of honor gained to a tribe, family, or individual. Such is not the case. After having witnessed many of these, and holding a giveaway myself, I still cannot give you precise rules on this. I believe, as far as the gifts themselves go, it is a combination of the amount of time and thought put into a gift, the quality of it, and the value relative to your own net worth (a rich man who gives ten Indian Blankets would likely garner less honor than a pauper who gives one flowerpot that he personally hand-crafted, glazed, and painted. Really, though it did not appear as if the gifts themselves generated the majority of the honor.

  • So how does HONOR work in a giveaway? As previously mentioned, it's a very complex system, and there are no hard and fast rules, nor is there a point system. As best I could tell, this is how honor would work in a giveaway by yourself, in the Pow wow of a tribe you belong to:
    • If you are holding a giveaway, you have already been honored. Remember, giveaways are held to announce a life-changing event. Making Head Dancer or Head Drummer, giving birth to a child, graduating college, all of these are excellent reasons for a giveaway. The fact that you are sharing this moment with those observing the giveaway means that you are honoring the tribe. The greater the event one holds a giveaway for, the greater the honor bestowed upon those watching. If it is some manner of unique circumstance, then sharing that moment would be the highest honor given of all.
    • Money. Plain and simple, dollars do help translate into honor for the tribe. However, it's not quite as simple as plunking down a few hundred dollars and being honored. The money that really counts appears to be the money handed to you during the dance. After the announcement, you will lead everyone in a dance, during which time others will likely shake your hand and by doing so, slide money into it. Typically, half is kept by the one throwing the giveaway, and half is given to the Big Three. If you decide to give all of it, then there is twice the honor. Regardless, the true honor stemming from money is what others give to you, to give to the Big Three. This is the audience's way of saying "You have honored me so much by allowing me to witness this event with you, that I wish to contribute my own honor to the event as well." So instead of thinking of the money in a dollar amount, think of it in terms of the number of people who added their own honor to the giveaway.
    • Dancers will also add to the honor. During the dance that you will be leading, others will stand up and join in. The more who join in, the more honor is bestowed.
    • If everything goes smoothly, according to plan (or at least looks that way to everyone else involved) then honor is granted to those who supported your request for a giveaway.
    • Other factors certainly apply, such as tribal politics, how well you managed to balance rivals vying for the honor, the amount of respect you show everyone involved, the genuine nature of your aim in holding the giveaway, and so forth.
    • There is an easy way to tell whether or not you achieved a good deal of honor from your tribe. If no one mentions it the rest of the Pow Wow, you most likely failed to convey much honor to anyone. If, however, you get stopped every five minutes by someone you've never met wishing to convey their congratulations and warm wishes, to the point of being stopped at a gas station miles away from the reservation, you did good.

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