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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Powwow Celebrates Culture

Carolina Indian Circle, UNC's Native American cultural awareness organization, held its annual powwow at Polk Place near Wilson Library. The event has attracted people of various ages and races from across the state since 1974.

Saturday's powwow was a smaller version of the many that are held across the state every year. The celebration of Native American culture incorporated singing, dancing and fellowship to increase cultural pride and awareness.

Native American jewelry, art and food vendors also attracted students and visitors to the Pit.

Senior Ben Hammonds, event coordinator and president of the circle, said the program was important to increase awareness on campus.

"The powwow is a social gathering with some ceremonial aspects where everyone can come together and learn about our culture," he said.

The event featured various dances, including a healing dance, and Native American music from three N.C.-based bands. Dancers donned the traditional regalia of a Native American performer. Each brightly colored costume had seven rows of fringe-like metal cones.

Sophomore Larry Nilles, another UNC student at the event, heard about the powwow from his history professor and decided to bring along his 11-year-old brother, Kris, from Knightdale. Neither brother had attended a powwow before. "It's a really interesting, cultural experience," Nilles said.

Nilles' professor, Theda Perdue, also attended the gathering with two of her colleagues -- American Studies Professor Mike Green and post-doctorate student Izumi Ishii.

Perdue, a Native American researcher, said she attends powwows every year. "This is a wonderful opportunity for UNC to acknowledge the presence of native students and to learn something about the culture," she said. "The Carolina Indian Circle students really link the University to the broader community."

Lesley Johnson, a graduate student from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, came to witness an Indian powwow for a class. "I had to attend an activity where I would be a minority," Johnson said.

Ray Silva, the master of ceremonies, came from Greensboro with his family to help conduct the activities.

Silva provided the audience with anecdotes and information about the Native American culture and entranced the audience with a live flute performance.

"These powwows help show people that we're still going strong," he said.

"We're still alive, we're still here."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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