The Winona Dakota Gathering Homecoming & Powwow is an annual event for families of indigenous and local populations around the region. It is held in Unity Park at the East end of Lake Winona usually the second weekend in September.

Guide for Participation in the Winona Dakota Gathering, Homecoming & Powwow

Pictures and recording

  • Personal use: Pictures and recordings for personal use are permitted.
  • Commercial photography requires permission from the person being photographed.
  • No recording of any kind allowed during Honor Songs, prayers, or at any time specified by Emcee.

Alcohol, Drugs, Firearms

Alcohol, illicit drugs and firearms are strictly prohibited throughout the area. Security is provided throughout the weekend.


By City ordinance, no pets are allowed in the East Lake Winona/Unity Park.

Native American Food and Craft Vendors

At any Wacipi (powwow) an array of vendors sell quality Native American arts,crafts, jewelry, books, and food at reasonable prices. This is often how these vendors make a living. Explore and enjoy opportunities that are not often available in Winona.

Learning Tent

Native American artists and scholars provide visitors the opportunity to see and learn about important aspwcts of native life through high quality demonstrations and displays. This learning tent is set up to mirror a truer form of “Indian Education”, which is to educate as needed and within a specific context, to make sense and be meaningful. Table-top events may include beadwork, silverwork, cradleboard, quillwork, moccasins, toys & games, buffalo rib-bone rattles, dream catchers, Dakota language, children’s drums & more.

Talk Circle

The Talk Circle is the heart of the Winona Dakota Gathering. A moderator, called the “Circle Maker” introduces a focus for the day and provides historical background. The Circle Maker explains the procedure and invites discussion. As one’s turn comes up, each person may choose to talk or listen (‘pass’).

The reason this event is so important is because it directly facilitates friendships and one-to-one interactions. Descendants of people who were at war 150 years ago, are not to blame for what their ancestors did. However when people suffer by each other’s hand, historical trauma is real to the descendants on all sides. Simple acknowledgement of the trauma, based on knowledge of the truth of the past, may reduce fear and discomfort and trigger the beginning of friendships and understanding. The WDUA Talk Circle promotes good feelings among all participants.

Unity Feast

The Dakota as well as other native American nations are known for generous hospitality,  gift-giving, and providing food for people who attend the Wacipi (powwow). In the spirit of that tradition, the WDUA invites indigenous populations and local residents to share in community feasting. Also the feast is a time to honor special guests and elders and remember ancestors in a ceremonial way. Before anyone begins eating, the Spiritual Leader for the Gathering leads everyone in the following rituals:

  • Preparing the Ancestors’ Plate: Small bits of each food are placed on a plate with a little tobacco (a traditional Native American gift) as a symbolic sharing of food with those who have passed on.
  • Serving the Elders: Elders of all races and groups are seated in a reserved section and served at their tables by young people.

Information Displays

Various kinds of information of special interest or concern may be displayed at the Gathering when relevant to the mission, vision, and values, of the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance.

Youth Education Day

Hundreds of grade school children from the Winona Area come to Unity Park for a field day on Friday before the Gathering. Multiple learning stations are located in tipis and staffed with Native American educators. Hands-on experiences focus on native culture & arts.

Genealogy & Archives

This information station helps people with Native American ancestry locate historical archives and cultural items that pertain to Dakota relatives. Available digital archives include:

  • Prisoner Lists 1863-66
  • Images of Dakota cultural items held at museums around the world.

Visitors at this station can:

  • Locate ancestors’ original historical sites
  • Learn how to preserve those sites and nominate them to the National Register of Historic Sites.


Lacrosse was one of many varieties of indigenous stickball games being played by American Indians at the time of European contact and was certainly played by young men at every event in known Dakota history. It’s first appearance at the WDUA Gathering was 2014.

North American Moccasin Tournament

The Moccasin game in an ancient and popular ‘slight-of-hand’ game. According to legend, two tribes who were unable to communicate with one another had a dispute over a herd of elk. They created a game to see who would be allowed to hunt the herd. In the process, they became friends and the game became tradition.

In Winona, Dakota teams from both Canada and the U.S. compete. It is played by hiding a small object like a bullet or shell under one of four moccasins. “Striking Sticks” made of willow are used to make a guess. Twenty wooden sticks representing arrows are used for counting. A round is played with two teams of four men each. One team member hides the object. While his teammates sing and play drums and shakers, the opponents guess the location of the object. Teams are eliminated in turn until the last team wins the prize.

In 2012 the first non-Dakota team entered the competition. The Winona Wasicu Moccasin Team, led by Winona-Dakota Advisory Council Member Leo Smith, made it to the 2nd round!

People who attend the Gathering can hear the drum beating throughout the day and across the grounds. Spectators to the Moccasin Tent are welcome.