Northern and Southern Singing Competitions

AIA Competition Guidelines and Rules

Drum members MUST be from the same lodge. All drum members must be under 21 years of age at the time of the competition, members of the Order of the Arrow, and registered participants at the event.  Each lodge is allowed to enter one team. All singing must be done in a team fashion. Drums must furnish their own drum and drum stand if used. Drum sticks are the responsibility of the singers. Chairs will be provided.


  1. Northern Drums must sing two northern songs. One of these must be a song sung for a special occasion, at a special time during the dance, or for a special dance. (e.g., Sneak-up, slide song, duck and dive, Rabbit Dance song). The other song can be a Northern Plains powwow song.
  2. Southern Drums must sing two southern songs. One of these must be a song sung for a special occasion, at a special time during the dance, or for a special dance. (e.g., Trot songs, round dance songs, Snake and Buffalo). The other song can be a Southern Plains inter-tribal powwow song.
    Family songs should be avoided as well as songs of a religious nature, such as Sun Dance, Native American Church or Peyote songs.
  3. Drums that sing northern-style songs in the southern competition, or vice versa, will receive a 5-point deduction from each judge.
  4. Men and Ladies Singers will use the following protocol at NOAC – male singers will sit at the drum to sing and ladies singers will be in a second row behind the male singers.
  5. Northern singing is a high falsetto voice with the honor beats in the melody of the song, normally in the second chorus.
  6. Southern singing is a more nasal tone with the honor beats between the first and second chorus.
  7. A list of two primary songs and four alternate songs may be submitted with proper documentation.
  8. The time limit is fifteen minutes. Timing begins when the judges invite the team to sit at the drum. Any narrative is included in the time allotted. If teams wish to warm up, this should be done away from the competition. Any ceremonies or local rituals should take place privately away from the competition. Going over the allotted fifteen minutes will result in a 5-point deduction from each judge. All teams must be ready to perform fifteen minutes prior to their assigned times.


  1. Northern Drum Male Singers rightly wear dance outfits, long pants, short pants, and shirts while at the drum. No bare feet or open-toe shoes. Improper attire will result in a 5-point deduction from each judge.
  2. Southern Drum Male Singers are much more formal. Long pants and shirts are required. No bare feet or open-toe shoes. Improper attire will result in a 5-point deduction from each judge.
  3. Attire for Ladies at the Drum: Women at the drum should wear respectful clothing that includes long pants and a modest shirt.  Having a shawl “at the ready” is always a good idea. Dance clothes are very acceptable but not necessary.


  1. The Registration Form can be filled out with the Google Form titled “NOAC Team Competition Registration” at this link.
  2. The team must submit one copy of their required research material (defined below) by June 30, 2022. Late submissions will result in an automatic deduction of 3 points per judge. Send the research report in electronic portable document file format (pdf) to
  3. The team’s chairman and adviser must check in to confirm competition registration, receive a performance time, and receive up-to-date information on mandatory meetings, team roster requirements, etc. Registration is Monday, July 25, 2022, at the American Indian Activities office.
  4. A mandatory meeting of all judges and competition team adviser and youth chairman will be held one half-hour after the conclusion of the Opening Arena Show. The location of the meeting will be available at registration/check-in.
  5. The top Northern and Southern teams will be given the opportunity to perform at the Conference Festival powwow on Friday at NOAC. Each winning team must be prepared to sing either the Grand Entry Song or an appropriate Flag Song.
  6. Research and other questions regarding the Northern and Southern Singing Competition should be addressed to:
    2022 NOAC AIA Competitions
    James Barton
    Phone: (843) 557-7038

Drums will be judged and awarded a score by each judge on the judging panel in each of the eight areas discussed below. Some areas have mandatory point deductions associated with failure to comply with stated rules. Each judge in the affected area will take the mandatory point deductions. Team standing/placement is determined by totaling all points received from the judges. Actual scores/points given by judges will not be provided to the teams, however, critique sheets from all judges will be provided to the team at the conclusion of the competition. Relative ranking of the teams will be available the day after the competition is finished. The judges will determine the judging criteria and all decisions are final.

  1. Research [MAXIMUM POINTS(20)]
    In addition to the one copy submitted electronically before the event, two (2) additional printed copies of the team’s research material should be brought to the NOAC competition. All research must be typewritten and PROPERLY FORMATTED/BOUND. Teams will be evaluated on the quality of the research they have done for the songs they have chosen to sing. Research submissions must include: origin of song (tribal affiliation), meaning of song (if any), how the song is structured, and references (professional recordings, etc). The historical background of the songs should also be included.
  2. Synchronization of Drum and Voice [MAXIMUM POINTS (10)]
    All competition songs should be sung in the appropriate manner: lead, chorus, honor beats, and pickup beats. The singers should sing as a group instead of as individuals, and the ending of the song should be definite with no over-beats.
  3. Sound Quality [MAXIMUM POINTS (15)]
    The singers should match in pitch and harmony for the most part. The drum beat should not overpower, be louder than the song. The second/chorus should not be lower in pitch/volume from the lead.
  4. Dance-ability [MAXIMUM POINTS (10)]
    Songs should be sung at the appropriate tempo. If a song was composed as a slow, medium or fast song it should be presented that way for competition.
  5. Language and Pronunciation [MAXIMUM POINTS (20)]
    Songs should be sung with the correct vocables and/or words.
  6. Teamwork [MAXIMUM POINTS (15)]
    Teams will be judged on their ability to sing the songs as a group. The individual singers should work as one group instead on one or two “stars” pulling the weight for the entire group.
  7. General Effect and Impression [MAXIMUM POINTS (10)]
    The overall general effect and impression of the songs will also be considered. Some of the factors that will be considered are: the teams’ confidence, presentation and explanation of the songs, care of the drum and stick, timeliness, not going over the stated time limit, etc.
  8. Constructive Comments [NOT SCORED]

Awards will be given to the top three drums. Special Honorable Mention awards may be given, if deemed appropriate.