PEMBROKE — The chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina on Saturday called for Lumbees and members of other American Indian tribes across the country to support local federal legislators in their efforts to get the Lumbee Recognition Act through both chambers of the U.S. Congress.
“We have some great leaders,” Harvey Godwin Jr. said at the day’s opening of the Lumbee Tribe’s annual three-day Dance of the Spring Moon Powwow, which kicked off Friday. “After efforts that began 126 years ago, I think the time has come that we are going to finally be fully recognized.”
Godwin told the dancers and others gathered in the dance tent at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center that the filing of the Lumbee Recognition Act in both the Senate and House on Thursday is a major step toward receiving recognition. He praised Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Robert Pittenger, both Republicans, for moving the legislation forward.
This year’s powwow is expected to draw a crowd of between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators. There was some concern early Saturday that the cool and rainy weather might put a damper on the day’s activities.
More than 300 dancers and eight drum groups from across the country are participating in the event, according to John “Stick Boy” Oxendine, chairman of the powwow. The dancers and drummers are of “good quality,” Oxendine said.
Godwin told the crowd before the day’s dancing competitions began that the Lumbee powwow will soon be recognized as one of the premier powwows on the East Coast. On Thursday he declared that this year’s powwow is going to be the “biggest and most successful ever.”
“We are off to a great start this year,” Godwin told The Robesonian. “We had substantially more people than even I expected beginning last night.”
Derek Hopkins, of Fayetteville, a member of the Meherrin Tribe, thinks the Lumbee powwow is already one of the best.
“… It’s really big for the East Coast,” he said. “I would rate it a strong nine out of 10, and I travel to powwows all over the country.”
Hopkins said he attends the Lumbee powwow every year.
“It gives me a chance to see folks I may not have seen in awhile,” Hopkins, 21, said. “It’s an opportunity for me to be my ‘native self” and not have to have any disclaimers about who I am.”
According to Hopkins he is best known for his Southern Straight dancing. He said he is also known somewhat for his dancing in the “Fancy” category.
“There are different styles of dancing,” he said. “Dancers choose different styles and different clothing designs and colors to represent something they feel.”
In addition to the dancing and drumming, several hundred people roamed the cultural center grounds, trying out different foods, examining and purchasing arts-and-crafts, and viewing a variety of cultural and educational exhibits. Many visited a living history exhibit, watched or participated in stickball games, or reintroduced themselves to the life of Henry Berry Lowry by watching short scenes from the outdoor drama “Strike at the Wind!”
Breana Certain, of South Hampton, New York, but currently living in Angier, knows exactly what she wants to do at the powwow when she attends the event each year.
“I love to dance,” Certain, a member of the Shinnecock Tribe, said. “Dancing is what my heart likes to do.”
The powwow continues today at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center at 638 Terry Sanford Road. Gates open at 10 a.m., with the grand entry beginning at 1 p.m.
There is a small admission to the cultural center grounds, but general parking is free at Purnell Swett High School. Shuttles will provide transportation to the cultural center grounds.
Some parking passes are available for $20 and allow parking on cultural center grounds.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.