The powwow brings together the tradition of the University and the traditions of American Indians. People from across the state and outside of North Carolina gathered in Chapel Hill to partake in or witness the powwow dance competition.
Elected co-chairpersons Harley Locklear and Joseph Locklear, who worked all year to organize the event, saw the culmination of their work as hundreds of people spilled in.
Harley said they hope the event, which is one of the largest collegiate powwows, will continue to expand throughout the years.
“In five years, I want us to have an entire weekend devoted to powwow. I definitely want us to give out more prize money, so we can attract more diversity in who we have here, have more tribes represented,” Harley said.“I would also love for the University to one day sponsor this event.”
For many participants, it was more than a competition — the powwow is benefiting the Faith Memorial Fund for the fourth year in a row.
Charley Sills, a performer and member of the Coharie Indian Tribe in Clinton, N.C., said the event is a way of maintaining their ancestors’ traditions.
“Being able to partake in it is a part of staying traditional,” she said. “You know, our ancestors’ ways is to keep it going in a modern world. It’s a being part of the Old World even though you are still living in what is like a New World.”
Sills said the powwow connected the American Indian community.
“It is a spiritual thing. It is coming together with friends and family — getting to reunite with everybody and seeing everybody,” she said.
The competition began with the Grand Entry ceremony, which called together all the dancers. It was led by sophomore Samantha Daniel, a psychology major from Roanoke Rapids.
Daniel, who said she has been dancing since she was 3 years old, said she has been coming to the UNC powwow since she was little.
“It feels good. It’s an honor to know that they trust me in leading the dancers,” she said.
Chancellor Carol Folt danced in the Grand Entry ceremony, which also honored veterans. She said this was her third year attending.
“It was very moving for me to be part of the dance coming in because I think the powwow is such a wonderful community-building opportunity, and it meant a lot to me,” she said.
Bruce Cairns, director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at the UNC school of medicine, attended the powwow with Folt.
“It was such an honor to be a part of this,” Cairns said.
“I think that we all become better people — become a better University — when we recognize and understand the incredible accomplishments of the people who missed the powwow today.”