This year I attended several powwows:
1) CIC Powwow: Although I was not on the planning committee, I looked forward to this powwow because it is our school’s chance to showcase our Indian community to Indian Country. I have been many times, but this time I paid attention to where all of the dancers were from. There were dancers from NC, the Washington, DC area, PA, VA and probably other states. Drum groups were from NC and DC. To someone who is visiting or to a random student who wandered in, they wouldn’t realize that participants, vendors and family members travel hours and hundreds of miles to powwows. Many go to powwows every weekend. The fact that people go for the love of dancing or singing proves to me that powwows are not a “show”. Today they are an important part of Lumbee and other tribe’s cultures, even though powwow is not traditional to this area.
2) NC State Powwow: I had attended this powwow as a spectator before, but this year was the first time I danced. It was a very well attended powwow, with more dancers than CIC’s powwow. I noticed there were a lot of youth who attended with Wake Co. Indian Ed or their families. Even though they were spectating, maybe in the future they will decide to sing or dance if they like what they saw. This powwow was extremely well organized. It did not run late, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The committee purchased drinks and snacks for dancers and drummers, and participants and their families received a pizza dinner. The only problem that I noticed during the powwow is that they ran out of pizza, because more dancers came than expected. It’s always good to have more participants show up, because that is a testament to the popularity of the event.
3) Duke University Powwow: This powwow is important to me, because I volunteered during their first powwow 3 years ago. In 2007, students at Duke approached Erica Scott, a UNC grad student, about organizing their inaugural powwow and Erica was happy to help. She led the committee and got UNC students to volunteer the day of the event. Even though we are rival schools, the Indian community here supported Duke’s powwow, which has grown a lot over the course of 3 years. It is clear that the powwow has a lot of university support, because the powwow committee spent a lot of money on two meals, snacks, water, and giveaway items including t-shirts, bags, portfolios, Tanka Bars and other items. Not only did they give away gifts to participants, but they also invited other community members to come and get a t-shirt. This powwow was extremely welcoming, and I think it will continue to grow. An interesting aspect to the Duke powwow is that unlike UNC and State, most Duke students are not Lumbee or from other NC tribes. Nonetheless they make sure to reach out to the local tribal community by having host drums and head staff who are mostly Lumbee and Haliwa-Saponi.
4) Haliwa-Saponi Powwow: I went to this powwow as a spectator and met up with several classmates. Because this is a tribally run powwow, it is a lot different from a university powwow. First, there were many giveaways and honoring songs for people such as the outgoing Miss Haliwa-Saponi and the new Miss Haliwa-Saponi. I could tell that this was a huge event for both the Haliwa-Saponi community, the larger Indian community and the surrounding area. Politicians and candidates, both tribal, local and state, came to address the crowd. The powwow had the atmosphere of a homecoming. Local vendors set up food stands and one was run by a friend’s family. I don’t see these food vendors at any other powwows, and I could tell who the local favorites were depending on the length of the line. The tribe also set up health stands with information about common public health issues: obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, STDs and teen pregnancy. They were giving away multivitamins for women and condoms, which I have not generally seen at a powwow but I think is a good idea given the extremely high rates of STDs and teen pregnancy in the area (Warren Co., where the powwow was held, is 4th in the state for teen pregnancy). The public health information, political visits, local food vendors, giveaways, and the huge crowd all indicate that the event is more than a powwow with dancing and singing. It is the main opportunity for the Haliwa-Saponi people to come together. However, they are also very welcoming to others.