49ers

By Valarie Tom

Powwows were originally known as a ceremonial event to plan, organize, and reflect within a set tribal group or clan. Powwows were also a time to prepare for war.

Today, the powwow event has transformed into an event where contest singing and dancing commence. Northern states like Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Southern states like Omaha, Oklahoma, Kansas organize powwows differently, and are conducted differently in terms of etiquette and meaning. However, there is one thing pervasive in any powwow you attend across the nation—an after-powwow event called a “49er.” The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is given credit for having created the 49er event and it has evolved into a social event that takes place in a remote area.

While history and stories differ on the original beginning and meaning of the 49er, most can agree it is a time when singing, dancing and ‘courting’ commence in the dark and socializing is the goal. Non-Indians are usually not invited and if one does decide to attend, it is at their own peril as this social gathering is usually not monitored by any law enforcement or security.  Destruction of vehicles and harm to ones’ being may occur. It is definitely an event where one is warned to attend at your own risk. The 49er is not sanctioned by any government or tribal entities and the consumption of massive amounts of alcohol and drugs occurs. Tourists beware!