Writing Workshop: Informational Essay
A girl sits against a library bookcase. She reads an open book resting on top of a stack of other books. Throughout this unit, you’ve read selections that explored the theme of crossing borders, including physical and cultural borders. You also wrote an informational essay about a cultural custom or tradition.
An effective informational essay includes the following elements:
an introduction with a clear thesis stating the writer’s main point
several supporting ideas that develop the main idea
specific details that provide additional information about those supporting ideas, such as facts, examples, or personal experiences
a conclusion that restates the writer’s main ideas
In this lesson, you will revise and edit your essay to produce a final, polished draft. Keep the elements listed above in mind as you compose your final draft.
Use revising and editing strategies to compose the final draft of an informational essay
Use vocabulary words correctly in writing
Use phrases and clauses correctly in writing
Use transitional phrases to improve organization in an informational essay
Informational Essay on Tradition
Thomas Wolfe’s quote ‘Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs’, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the phenomenon called Culture. In a myriad of ways, every culture is an art form, a beautiful and detailed painting. In Crossing Borders, there are distinct characters with different kinds of relationships with culture. In ‘Border’, the mother has an unassailable attachment to culture while in Mexicans Begin Jogging, identity is so fiscal, that it is not even considered the main characteristic. Though the unifying element in all the creations is that there is an appropriate dignity accompanying the sentiment of culture. Traditions are an extremely important feature of Culture, as a whole. They are the driving aspects of culture. This essay provides a detailed description of a particular tradition and its importance.
Pow Wows is a signifying tradition of Native American culture. In many places, Native American Culture is identified by Pow Wows. The history of Native Americans is filled with colorful elements like dance, costumes, and songs. The dance was a form of celebration for them. Initially, it was used to welcome people after a successful hunt. Then, slowly the practice got elevated to welcoming denizens after wars (Gutierrez Masini, 2018, p.50). This tradition has had its own journey across history.
The origin and spread of Pow Wows across history are closely associated with the annals of Native Americans, in the world. Pow Wows were first observed by tribes inhabiting the Great Plains from the southern prairies of Canada to the lower plains of Texas. After being hit by colonizers the tribes began to form alliances with each other, which led to multiple customs and traditions being shared amongst each other. Some traditions in this methodology of sharing, became a staple, due to their popularity and acceptability. One such tradition was Pow Wows, which incorporated constituents like dancing and singing, and in no time became a favorite of tribes all over America.
The popularity of the custom became visible when a conjoined event was held by tribes to celebrate it. The conjoined event took place in the Indian Territory in the presence of almost Sixty-Seven tribes. Some of the tribes present in the event Omaha, Ponca, Kaw, Osage, Pawnee, and Otoe-Missouria went on to form the city of Oklahoma, where this tradition still has roots. The tradition provided a major solace and mollified people in distressing times. Therefore, to enjoy it many came on horses traveling hundreds of miles to engage in the spirit of fraternity the custom produced. Initially, the custom only showcased Helushka. Helushka incorporated the dancing of warrior men, but slowly it began to encompass even women in the tradition. Pow Wows enjoys a huge amount of popularity in America, even after being a Native custom, mainly because of its reachability. The reachability of Pow Wows is so strong and emphatic that the wave of colonization was ineffective (Masini, 2018, p.40).
After colonization, there was an intended effort on the side of authorities to suppress any kind of narrative in relation to Native America. This included the impertinence of popular customs like Pow Wows. Though events like World War 1 and World War 2 changed that, Native American soldiers fought valiantly. To celebrate these valiant fighters the tribes celebrated with Pow Wows, and since the subject of war were the authorities, they couldn’t subdue the tradition from mainstream media. Therefore, it quickly came into the larger eye of the country and garnered appreciation. Native Americans kept their generational enmity aside to fight in myriads alongside ‘Americans’ with firearms. Returning this gratitude of bravado showcased by Native Americans the War veterans involved themselves in these dances wholeheartedly to appreciate the contributions of the Indians. To encourage this harmony, tribal elders imparted knowledge about the tradition in order to gain more assistance and honor.
The tribes started to arrange celebrations for War Veterans around Pow Wows. Though strategic it soon subsided because of discomfort, and the tribes began to hold such commemorations only for their own (Aicinena & Ziyanak, 2021, p.26). The World Wars were seen as an attack on American land and the Native American soldiers gained the reputation of modern-day warriors. The elders contributed their knowledge about the customs, but new principles were inculcated due to the changing times and norms. These events brought many tribes under the same roof, and they saw the tradition as a great mode of preservation.
Pow Wows became a source of safeguarding Native American culture. In a matter of a few decades ‘America’ had become a superpower. The overwhelming authority held by America was a scary prospect for the tribes as there was a looming possibility of them using their influence to wipe out their history and bring their borders closer. Thus, a huge drive for preservation was started by multiple tribes, to save their memories. Pow Wows became a great method for the cause of preservation. Most of the songs and dances in the tradition were steeped in the folklore of Native American society (Watson, 2021, p.402). Therefore, it did not take a huge effort to proliferate. Hence, the frequency of Intertribal events accelerated at a huge rate. As expected the scheme was a success and many members of the tribe carried the tradition of Pow Wows to the urban cities where they sought and ultimately secured employment.
Indians through Pow Wows established connections with each other. Urbanization brought with it the issue of assimilation. The tribes became increasingly worried that desiring better living conditions might result in the catastrophic loss of their ‘Indianess’ and make them tenderfoots. This worry proved to be baseless because of the connecting tethers like Pow Wows. In the cities ‘Indian Communities’ formed groups and enjoyed these traditions to establish a bond with each other (Prichard, 2022, p.148). They became so attached to it that whichever domain they conquered they carried this tradition forward. The domains included sports like tennis, rodeo, and golf. The tradition has garnered a universal appeal because of the dances and songs it contains.
The dances and songs in the tradition are the biggest reason for its worldwide popularity. The elements of dancing and singing are accentuated by drums. Drums are a defining feature of Pow Wows. The drums control and provide variation to the tempo of the dance, which makes the dance exciting. The tradition has gained improvements like shawls, which beautifies the entire concept. There is a huge amount of diversity in the dances which reflects the distinctiveness of Native Americans. The various kinds of dances include northern men’s traditional dance, southern men’s straight dance, men’s grass dance, women’s northern/southern traditional dance, and women’s jingle dress dance (Aicinena & Ziyanak, 2021, p.20).
Pow Wows has become both a tether of the past and a path to the future for Native Indians.The presence of such ancient traditions helps to keep the core values intact. On the other hand, the popularity of Pow Wows all across Europe has given the community an opportunity to establish meaningful communication. Over the years the improvements and changes have made the tradition a unified phenomenon, with a similarity followed in most of the varieties. The similarity is to make it easier for audiences to grasp the tradition. This shows Pow Wows to be an evolving concept. As a concept, it changes with the requirement of time.
Aicinena, S. J., & Ziyanak, S. (2021). Contest Powwow: Sport and Native American Culture. Qualitative Report, 26(1).
Aicinena, S., & Ziyanak, S. (2021). The Native American Contest Powwow: Cultural Tethering Theory. Rowman & Littlefield.
Gutierrez Masini, J. (2018). Native American Indigeneity through Danza in University of California Powwows: A Decolonized Approach (Doctoral dissertation, UC Riverside).
Masini, J. M. G. (2018). Native American Indigeneity Through Danza in University of California Powwows: A Decolonized Approach. University of California, Riverside.
Prichard, R. (2022). Masculinities and Performativities in Native American Dance. In Masculinity, Intersectionality and Identity (pp. 145-163). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Watson, L. (2021). Sidebar: History Shaping the Future: How History Influences Health in North Carolina Native American Communities. North Carolina medical journal, 82(6), 401-402.