“We just didn’t lose her — someone took her,” said Consuela Richardson, the powwow’s head dancer and Hedgepeth’s cousin.
“It gives us all the opportunity to celebrate her life and what it meant to us but it also helps us to not forget.”
Hedgepeth’s family wore white T-shirts with the words, “Just Have Faith: In Loving Memory” written between angel wings.
“I know she’s looking down with a big smile today,” said Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the UNC American Indian Center.
Hertel said powwows are like family reunions that embrace fellowship and celebration. She said while Saturday’s powwow stemmed from unfortunate circumstances, she was happy it helped bring attention to the Native American community on campus.
“I just hope that we can continue to remember Faith not just on this day, but continue to do so and talk about her and who she was and her impact,” she said. “And who she was as a native person and native woman.”
Members of all eight American Indian tribes in North Carolina attended Saturday’s powwow. A traditional dance competition spanned the length of the powwow while vendors sold American Indian merchandise including dreamcatchers, bags, jewelry and hand-carved canes.
The powwow began with a grand entry ceremony and a blessing, followed by an honor song and dance dedicated to Hedgepeth.
Marcus Collins, an assistant dean of student success and academic counseling at UNC, addressed the crowd to recognize Hedgepeth’s family and friends.
“We want to take a minute and reflect on what our dear Faith means to us,” Collins said.
Collins presented Hedgepeth’s family with a box of letters written by students, faculty and staff.
“It truly is a testimony of what your baby is and continues to be,” he said.
Jessica Oxendine, a UNC student and powwow co-chairwoman for the Carolina Indian Circle, was Hedgepeth’s roommate her freshman year.
Oxendine said she geared the event to honor Hedgepeth and her contributions to the Native American community, given her extensive involvement with the Carolina Indian Circle and fun-loving attitude.
“She’d be excited,” Oxendine said. “She’d be laughing all over the place, running around and eating, definitely.”
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