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UNC American Indian Center to host community 'Welcome Extravaganza'

UNC's American Indian Center is pictured on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

After students spent the summer away from campus, the UNC American Indian Center is preparing to host its annual Welcome Extravaganza to reunite the University's Indigenous community with live music, food and festivities. 

The event will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Center as part of the University’s Weeks of Welcome. Students will be able to enjoy dinner and entertainment from a Native music artist as they celebrate and have the opportunity to meet the new AIC director, Danielle Hiraldo.  

“This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our Indigenous contributions, and the contributions to come for our students, our faculty and staff, and then to welcome our friends and community members to this new year at Chapel Hill,” Hiraldo said. 

A member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina, Hiraldo began serving as director in July. After the slower summer months, she said that she is looking forward to students returning to campus next week.  

“When the students are back, and faculty and staff are going, there's just a different energy that you can find," Hiraldo said. "There is a lot of excitement on campus for what the new year will bring, and I’m excited to see that and I'm excited to see what our native student leaders will do this year.” 

The extravaganza typically features live performances by a "Next Generation Artist" through the Music Maker Foundation. This year, southeastern N.C. native Lakota John will perform. 

John is a member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina who combines blues music with traditional indigenous music and instruments. The Center found it important to feature a local Indigenous artist, Hiraldo said. 

The extravaganza will be held directly in front of the Center and will be open to students and the public, including local American Indians. 

Zianne Richardson, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi and Nansemond tribes and president of the Carolina Indian Circle, said the extravaganza is meant to be inclusive. 

“It’s open to the public, anybody can come — native and non-native alike," she said. "And it's just a moment for the AIC to bring us all together right at the beginning of the year, especially when we have new students coming in.” 

At the event, American Indian student groups such as the Carolina Indian Circle and the First Nations Graduate Circle provide information about their organizations to prospective students. 

“It's just an opportunity for those new students to see how many people are here to support them and where we are across campus,”  said FNGC President Marissa Carmi, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

Representatives will also be available from various departments across campus, including the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program and the Center for Student Success. 

Hiraldo explained the importance of not only recognizing the historical contributions of indigenous peoples in the state, but also recognizing the current contributions on campus and across North Carolina. 

“It's important to recognize that Indigenous peoples have a rich history in the state, but they also continue that legacy today," she said. 

The Welcome Extravaganza provides many current and first-year students with a place to reunite with friends and meet staff at the AIC. Tia Hunt, the Political Action Chair for the CIC and a member of the Lumbee tribe recounted the emotions she had when attending the event as a first-year student. 

“I was very excited for it,"  she said. "It was one of the first events I went to by myself and I'm really glad I did because I met so many of my close friends on campus." 


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