36th Annual Gathering of Nations

The 36th Annual Gathering of Nations PowWow will be held on April 27-29,2023 at the Powwow Grounds at Tingley Coliseum. Activities include a Miss Indian World cultural pageant (Thursday night at the Albuquerque Convention Center), Stage 49 (Contemporary Music/Performance stage), Indian Traders’ Market (over 400 Arts & Crafts vendors), Native Food Court and more. The food vendors in the Native Food Court provide a large selection, ranging between southwestern-style cuisine to traditional Native American fare.

Gathering of Nations (GON) is the largest PowWow in the world. In fact, it is the “Super Bowl” of PowWows, with over $200,000 in cash and prizes awarded to singers and dancers competing. There are 36 dance categories, as well as different age group categories, including Elders (70+), Golden Age (55+), Adults (19+), Teens and Tiny Tots. Additionally, there are competitions for Northern Singers, Southern Singers, Women’s Back-up Singing, and a competition for Drum Groups and Drummers, as well as various special competitions. Also, they hold a pageant for Miss Indian World each year, choosing a winner based on personality, knowledge of tribal traditions, and dancing ability. Furthermore, there is an Indian Traders Market featuring artists, crafters selling Native American and Indigenous arts and crafts.

This is a rain or shine event!

The Grand Entry

The PowWow officially begins with the initial Grand Entry on Friday at noon. At that time, dancers, representing indigenous tribes from throughout the United States and Canada, stream into the arena. As the drums beat, more dancers flow on to the floor of the stadium, joining a clockwise procession that builds with the tempo of the drums until there is barely room to move. The thunderous rhythm of the drums and singing fills the arena, the music augmented by the thousands of bells and rattles worn by the dancers, punctuating every movement, creating a cacophony of sound. The colorful traditional attire creates an overwhelming visual experience. In total, more than 3,500 dancers participate, representing over 500 U.S. and over 200 Canadian tribes.

When event organizers moved the festival from the UNM Basketball arena to the State Fairgrounds, they brought horses back into the celebration, with a native horse and rider regalia parade honoring the importance of horses to various tribes.

Gathering of Nations
Dancers representing tribes from throughout North American descend to the floor to dance together during the Grand Entry

36 Years of Gathering of Nations PowWow History

The Gathering of Nations Powwow and Miss Indian World Pageant was born from the dreams and desires of Derek and Dr. Lita Mathews. Originally, they wanted to host a world class annual festival celebrating indigenous art, culture, customs and heritage. The idea was to produce an event that would assemble the tribes of North America for a unique celebration, with singing and dancing competition open and fair to all.

They held the inaugural event in 1983 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The event became known as “Gathering of Nations PowWow” in 1984 and relocated to the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. They held the event in the small horse arena for two years, where it quickly outgrew the space. As a result, The Gathering of Nations moved to the University of New Mexico’s Basketball Arena, known as “The Pit,” in 1986. With seating for 20,000+, the venue allowed the Gathering of Nations to grow…and it did. Indeed, Gathering of Nations sold out for 30 years until UNM inexplicably decided to cancel the relationship in 2016, forcing event organizers to scramble for a large enough venue to keep Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque.

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PowWow Grounds at EXPO New Mexico

Gathering of Nations returned to the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, known as Expo New Mexico, in 2017. However, they are no longer confined to a small horse area. The event is housed on the newly defined PowWow Grounds, which includes Tingley Coliseum. With the expanded space, visitors can easily navigate the venues outside of Tingley, including Stage 49, the Indian Trader’s Market, the Food Court, and the new Teepee Village. The Mathews’ daughter, Melonie, has joined her parents to help organize and host the event.

Over the past 36 years, the event has evolved from humble beginnings into an illustrious world-class festival celebrating every facet of indigenous culture. Furthermore, the event finances numerous community outreach efforts. Not only are lifelong connections and friendships forged at the event, it provides an outstanding opportunity for the next generation to learn from their elders. People from around the world travel to Albuquerque specifically for the event. Additionally, the Miss Indian World Pageant has become the largest and most prestigious Cultural Pageant for young Native/Indigenous women.

The Gathering of Nations experience does not end when you head home. It is an experience that sticks with you, the drums pounding internally for days, the experience permeating your heart and mind. Hopefully the experience imbues guests with the camaraderie and kindness of the PowWow experience.

Gathering of Nations
The Ms. Indian World competition occurs during Gathering of Nations, starting on Thursday before the dance competitions begin.

Culture, History, Heritage, Tradition

From PowWows.com

“Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones. This is a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians.”


Dancing has always been an important part of the life and customs of the indigenous tribes of North America. Though dancing styles and content have changed over time, the meaning and importance of dance has not. The regalia worn by the dancers is elaborate and has evolved over time, like all fashion. However, this emphasizes that the cultures represented are not static or stagnant. In fact, the passing of traditional knowledge and practices isn’t simply about paying homage to the past, it is equally focused on paving the way for a resilient, vibrant future for the next generation.

Whereas most dances seen at PowWows today are social dances, the dancing may have had different meanings and purposes in the past. In general, dances associated with ceremonies are typically not open to the public and cameras/visual rendering is forbidden. However, Gathering of Nations allows photography and video. Photographers/videographers should obtain permission from dancers and photo subjects.


Singers are a significant part of the PowWow tradition, with songs dedicated to many facets of traditional life; religious, war and social. The songs reflect the old ways and rich traditions of the past, serving as a reminder of the rich heritage and history of North America’s indigenous people. Furthermore, when the tribes assemble at Gathering of Nations, they often share their songs, occasionally changing them so singers from different tribes can sing along. To overcome the challenges associated with many unrelated languages, they sometimes incorporate “vocables” to replace the words. In fact, some songs are entirely “vocables,” with no discernible words, though the song still holds meaning for those who are familiar with it. However, many songs are sung in their original Native American languages and dialects.

Gathering of Nations Aztec Dancers
Gathering of Nations Aztec Dancers.

Stage 49

Stage 49 is included in the cost of admission. They showcase contemporary Native music and entertainment on Friday and Saturday. All genres of music are represented, including Rock, Blues, Reggae, Hip Hop, Country, DJ’s, Jam Bands, and more.

Stage 49 was originally known as the Electric 49, which was an annual Native American Music concert coinciding with the PowWow, but otherwise unaffiliated with the official event. The group Red Earth created the concert in 1998. They hosted it for 8 years, featuring acts like Red Earth, Robert Mirabal, Native Roots, Ethnic DeGeneration, Casper, Derek Miller, Stoic Frame, and DJ Abel (among others). However, Red Earth has been on hiatus since 2006. Stage 49 was conceived to continue the mission of The Electric 49, which was to focus on highlighting Native American Musicians.

More Information

Gathering of Nations is Thursday through Saturday on the last weekend of April at Tingley Coliseum, located at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The PowWow celebrates indigenous culture, history and traditions. The Gathering of Nations PowWow attracts tens of thousands of people to Albuquerque, with more than 800 tribes from the U.S., Canada, and around the world, participating each year.

You need to see and hear this event to fully understand the atmosphere and experience. The drumming defines the rhythm and cadence for the spectators and the dancers, with the steady percussion synchronizing thousands of heartbeats over the 2-day event.

The 3-day event includes

  • 3,000+ Native American singers and dancers competing for prizes
  • 800+ Native American artisans, craftsmen and traders displaying and selling their work
  • 30+ contemporary indigenous music groups performing on Stage 49.

Tingley Coliseum
300 San Pedro Dr NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
(505) 265-1791
(505) 836-2810

Admission | Tickets Sold at the Door

One-Day Admission – $19
Two-Day Pass – $42

2-Day VIP Pass – $85
Limited Passes Available


Camping on GON Pow Wow Grounds at Expo NM

Camping space is limited. However, there are full hookups and dry spaces. Additionally, showers are available. Reserve space online starting November 1, 2018.

Hotels (Ask for GON Hotel Rates)

  • Double Tree Hotel (Downtown) 800-584-5058
  • Marriot (Uptown) Hotel 800-228-9290
  • Ramada ABQ (Midtown) 505-884-5058
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites (Airport) 505-247-1621
  • Large Group Assistance, call ABQ Hispano Chamber, (505) 842-9003

Miss Indian World Talent Presentations

Gathering of Nation’s hosts the Miss Indian World Talent Presentations at the Kiva Auditorium on Thursday. Miss Indian World 2019 will be crowned after the Saturday Grand Entry at EXPO New Mexico. The recipient of the Miss Indian World Talent Presentation is honored as a cultural goodwill ambassador on behalf of native and indigenous people.

Miss Indian World Talent Presentation (Thursday)
Albuquerque Convention Center – Kiva Auditorium
401 2nd St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 768-4575

Parking off of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and Marquette NW

Tickets $15
Tickets available at the door 3 PM
Will Call Open at 5 PM
Doors open 6 PM, Showtime 7 PM

2-Day Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

The Gathering of Nations PowWow is a 2-day event (Friday & Saturday) held at EXPO New Mexico in Albuquerque. GON is open to everyone who wants to celebrate indigenous culture, heritage and traditions. The event is an overwhelming 3-day visual and auditory bounty of dancing and drums. Moreover, there is an emotional vibe that is hard to describe.

Gathering of Nations
Ask for permission before taking photos of people. Whereas most of the dancers are amenable. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want paparazzi all day. There is deeper meaning and purpose to the dance and songs

GON PowWow Schedule


  • 9 AM – 3 PM – Ticket/Box Office open for Ticket Sales and Will Call
    Gate 8 & Gate 3
  • 9 AM – 3 PM – Dancer/Drum Registration
    Expo New Mexico, Enter Gate 8 ONLY
  • 3 PM – Tickets for sale for the Miss Indian World Traditional Presentations at the ABQ Convention Center – Upper Level
  • 5 PM – Will Call open for Miss Indian World Traditional Presentations tickets ONLY
    NO PowWow Tickets (unless ordered with Miss Indian World)
  • 7 PM – 10 PM – Miss Indian World Traditional Talent Presentations
    Albuquerque Convention Center | Kiva Auditorium

Gathering of Nations


  • 9 AM – 10 PM – Ticket/Box Office open for Ticket Sales and Will Call – Gate 8 & Gate 3
  • 9 AM – 2 PM – Dancer/Drum Registration @ Expo NM, Enter Gate 8 ONLY
    After 2pm, Registration will be at Announcer’s stage inside Tingley Coliseum
    Dancer Discount Card good until 2PM Friday, April 26, 2019
  • 10 AM – Gates Open to the General Public to the PowWow Grounds
  • 10 AM – 11:45 AM – Musical Performances inside Tingley Coliseum, all venues open
    Traders’ Market, Stage 49, Food Court, Teepee Village
  • 12 PM – Grand Entry of Dancers inside Tingley
  • 1 PM – 5 PM – Contest Dancing – all venues with various programming around PowWow Grounds
  • 2 PM – Miss Indian World Public Speaking Competition at Stage 49
  • 4 PM – Horse and Rider Parade
    PowWow Grounds and down Main Street
  • 5 PM – Gourd Dancing
  • 7 PM – Grand Entry of Dancers
  • 8 PM – Miss Indian World Dance Competition
  • 8:30 PM – Adult and Specialty Competitions
  • 12 AM (midnight) – Close for evening


  • 9 AM – 10 PM – Ticket/Box Office open for Ticket Sales and Will Call – Gate 8 & Gate 3
  • 10 AM – Gates Open to the General Public to the PowWow Grounds
  • 10 AM – 11:45 AM – Musical Performances inside Tingley Coliseum, All Venues Open
    Traders’ Market, Stage 49, Food Court, Teepee Village
  • 12 PM – Grand Entry of Dancers inside Tingley
  • 1 PM – 5 PM – Contest Dancing
    All venues with various programming around PowWow Grounds
  • 3 PM – Horse and Rider Parade
    PowWow Grounds and down Main Street
  • 4 PM – Gourd Dancing
  • 6 PM – Grand Entry of Dancers
  • 8 PM – Miss Indian World Crowing
  • 9 PM – Adult and Specialty Competitions
  • 12 AM (midnight) | Close for 2019

Program times are subject to change.

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