“Indians” in Russia – It’s not a fairy tale!

“Indians” in Russia – It’s not a fairy tale!

One day as I was creeping people on Facebook I saw a breathtaking, top-notch, museum quality war shirt. It was carefully beaded in sky blue seed beads and had horse hair ties intricately wrapped running along the fringe. I clicked on the picture and suddenly I was transported to the timeline of Mikhail Vinogradov; a Russian pow-wow enthusiast. Yes, I said Russian.

When I delved further into his timeline and started creeping on his friends I came to discover what I’d only heard in reservation fairy tales – that somewhere, in a land far, far away there was a town full of German people who lived like Indians.use this one

Turns out its not a fairy tale, and that in fact Eastern Europe is full of people who legitimately pow wow. They aren’t Ongwehowe at all but have devoted their lives to researching Ongwehowe ceremonies, traditions, crafts and dancing. The Pow Wow People of Russia have actually created an entire sub-culture of weekend indigenous life right in the middle of Europe. They have retreats where they will sleep in tipis that they make themselves, hold sweats, have naming ceremonies and hold dance contests – “just like the red man”.

This makes a lot of actual indigenous people angry. Understandably so. The story of colonization first removed the indigenous people from our territories and then forcibly separated our ancestors from our culture. Further to that, Victorian times thought it appropriate tokenize Indians and romanticize ‘savages’ through things like Peter Pan and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Because of this history, the sight of European men and women gathering around the big drum, singing victory songs and speaking Lakota can absolutely be taken as adding insult to injury. However because they are doing so much research into what is actually authentic, there is yet a layer of separation between this kind of tokenization and things like mascotry done by professional sports teams in the USA or some idiot wearing a cartoonish replica headdress at Coachella. Just one look at the amount of work going into the Russian Pow Wow People’s regalia, all pieces handmade by themselves, and you start to get an understanding of their level of commitment to pow wow life.

Before we grab hold of the megaphone and cry out misappropriation…could it be that these Russian enthusiasts believe that they are legitimately trying to honour us – albeit in a very awkward kind of way? Is what these Russian Pow Wow People are doing different than Khloe Kardashian’s now infamous Instagram picture of herself sitting cross-legged and becoming “one with water” while wearing a replica headdress?

All bad feelings aside this strange and unusual Russian hobby had my curiosity was piqued, so I reached out to Mikhail and asked him how the Russian Pow Wow went this weekend. Without passing judgement, here is our conversation and the photos he shared with me as proof that European Pow Wow Culture is more than a fairy tale. (BTW I am totally jealous of this guys beadwork skills. o_O…scroll down and see for yourself!)

What is your cultural background?

I’m Russian. I was born in Moscow.mikhail

How did you first hear about pow-wows?

About Pow Wow and Native Culture I heard in the childhood, reading books. I then was about 12 years old. Now I am 43 years old and all this time I studied books, I learned to do various Native items and Pow Wow regalia.10379765_867454899950031_972296002448004851_o

Where did you learn to dance and make regalia?

I learned make regalia by myself with photos from books and Internet. I learned to dance with videos from different Pow Wow in America. It was long but very interesting way.1462943_751005424928313_2019874679_n

Are there many people who dance and pow wow in your country?

Now in Russia we have a several groups of people who live in the different cities of Russia and study Native culture and Culture of Pow Wow. It’s about some hundreds people.10569819_891256317569889_207968221_o

Why do you choose to participate in cultural things that are of a different culture other than your own?

It is a difficult question. Probably, it happened because of many reasons. Many children in that time when I was a child watched movies and read books where Indians are shown by noble, courageous people. We wanted to be similar to them. Some of us, having become adults, continued this way. But now we don’t play anymore, we study this culture. We show respect for this culture. And we don’t understand why sometimes Native people have a negative opinion about as. We don’t steal their culture. We try to inform it to people in our country.10551542_891238637571657_1860462677359570930_o

Like this article? Follow our Facebook page

About The Author

Nahnda Garlow, Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations, is our Arts & Culture editor. Her popular column, Scone Dogs and Seed Beads brings weekly thoughts on current day indigenous identity. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado.

Related posts


  • Clive Garlow

    The white roots of the Tree of Peace have a very long reach. As Creator instructed us, ALL men are Brothers. This is respectful and I appreciate them knowing that our traditional ways were/are the right way.

  • Sierra Caress Frizzell

    Seems to me that they are showing honor not disrespect. We have a beautiful culture and I don’t blame them for wanting to be apart of it. I would love to visit Russia one day and see what they do in person:)

  • LoneWolfx270

    It looks like they have their stuff together as far as getting regalia together and correctly from what I can tell. Seems to me they did a lot of research in wanting to to practice the ways of the red path. They don’t seem to be doing it as an insult so I don’t see what the big deal is.

    • Indian Medicine

      I agree

  • bill

    people don’t realize natives were traded like commodities years ago..some of these people may be descendants of north america and they may not even know it but have that native instinct to be one with their spirits…

  • Elena

    Aniin,guys, booshoo! I’m Canadian, but from Russia too! I love native as well and that’s one of the reason why I’m here. That’s true there are so many people in Russia who love and follow Native traditions( for sure we are all related!)My ancestor use to live almost the same way you did..I’m going to Four Colors Drum Circle and Pow Wow( love Grand Mothers Drum!).I’m happy and so proud to be here,in touch with Native. But I know one writer who still live in Russia(his name is Andrey Wind from Moscow) never been in Canada and who loves Native too and righting many books about Native. Really great books!His last book is documentary.It;s about most of the famous warrior called Crazy Horse or knowing as a strange man of Oglala.It’s in Russian language yet. But I think many people would be interesting to read his book,. Isn’t !?

    • Victor Lyon

      @ Elena… how can I contact you, I am in the process of shooting a 13
      part series on Pow Wows and Drumming and singing, and one of my
      questions is in regards to people taking our Sacred practices and imitating them in Europe.Try contacting me here at 1-800-243-9059.

      • Sierra Caress Frizzell

        If you need more drum groups to film. Contact me. Look my drum group up on you tube, “Southern Eagle”

  • Elena

    this’s some books of Andrey Wind

  • Tecpaocelotl Castillo

    Ok…

  • Skawenati Ionkiats

    Amazing beadwork.. Im not mad at them, they are honoring <3, they are not mocking like most of these neanderthals do..!

  • Siusaidh

    I suspect many of these people were Indigenous North Americans in previous lifetimes.

    • Indian Medicine

      It is good that you surfaced the subject of “Reincarnation”, because it is not taught in most Euro-American Religions. – Thank You -

      • Siusaidh

        Most welcome. I neither believe nor dismiss the idea of reincarnation. There are things about human history and individual behaviour, both good and evil, I struggle to account for.

        • Indian Medicine

          The way that I look at “Reincarnation” is that it takes many Lifetimes to perfect the Spirit, and Reincarnation is one of the mechanisms The Creator uses for his Children……I am of the understanding that “Reincarnation” used to be taught in Euro-American Religion, but the “Church” lost Control of The People because they knew they would get another opportunity through Reincarnation to get “Life Right” and perfect for The Creator…..If you want to feel The Creator within, then open your arms & hands, then slowly close them in front until you feel a “Soap Bubble Strength Energy” in your Palms…..When you feel that energy, you feel the Creator within; and the Human Energy Field outside the Physical Body…..Would you give your Child only One Chance at Life?……I suspect NO, so you can not be greater then The Creator and the Divine Family (Ancestors) that are with us at all times unless you are a “Shadow Walker” and reject The Divine and The Light of The Creator…..When we finish this Life Walk, you will be given the Choice of Reincarnation or Other Options of Perfecting Your Spirit With The Creator & Divine Mother…..Once Again, Thank You For Surfacing this Subject so that Others may be aware…..With Respect, Indian Medicine