Powwows, Plant Medicine and Hip Hop: NC Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Six members of the Littleturtle family, who are Lumbee and Tuscarora, wear traditional regalia for a dance.

The Littleturtle family, who are Lumbee and Tuscarora, wear traditional regalia for a dance. They will lead a workshop on Nov. 5 at Elliott University Center, UNC Greensboro, on smoke dancing, war dancing, and longhouse social dancing, as well as storytelling. (Photo courtesy of Kaya Littleturtle)

By Emiene Wright

November 4, 2021

Native American Heritage Month is a time for remembrance and reunion in Indigenous communities across North Carolina. See our list of the best ways to celebrate near you!

November is Native American Heritage Month, and powwows are a vital aspect of this time of culture and community. Powwows, or public communal gatherings where Indigenous people sing, dance, confer, reconnect with their histories, and create new traditions, are also an integral part of North Carolina culture.

The state is home to eight state recognized tribes and has the largest Indigenous population east of the Mississippi River. Put on hold in 2020 due to pandemic concerns, this year the celebrations are returning with force. 

Here are some of the upcoming powwows, as well as other public events marking Native American Heritage Month:

11/4-7 Meherrin Indian Nation Virtual Pow wow. Hosted on the Social Distance Powwow Facebook page, the Meherrin powwow will feature live storytelling by Perry Ground and performances by Brooke Simpson of “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice.” There will be traditional, jingle, grass, fancy and smoke dances, and vendors will have their goods for sale online. Last year’s powwow, the first-ever virtual powwow on the East Coast, had representation from 10 countries, feated more than 100 dancers, and reached 65,000 viewers. The broadcast reach is expected to more than double this year. Not bad for North Carolina’s smallest tribe, which has about 800 registered members. The group is based in the northeastern part of the state, in Hertford, Bertie and Northampton counties. 

11/4 Honoring Native Foodways 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., UNC Pembroke, outside Jones/Annex. Sponsored by Southeast American Indian Studies/American Indian Studies. For more information, email staff at the American Indian Heritage Center at [email protected].

11/4 Cherokee Storytelling and Stone Carving Workshop, 6-8 p.m., Greensboro Central Library. Award-winning storyteller and author Freeman Owle shares history, culture, and ancient Cherokee stories for all ages. Participants will also take part in a stone carving 

11/4 North Carolina Native Herbal Plant Remedies, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Zoom webinar, Free. Author Arvis Boughman (Lumbee) discusses herbal remedies used for centuries in the coastal plain of North Carolina and storyteller Robert RedHawk Eldridge (Sappony) will explore indigenous herbs and foodways of western North Carolina. Pre-registration required, hosted by the NC Botanical Garden.

11/5 Kaya Littleturtle: Teaching our Southeastern Native Culture through Dance, Song, and Storytelling, 5:30-7 p.m., Kirkland, Elliott University Center, UNC Greensboro. The Littleturtle family, who are registered Lumbee and Tuscarora, will teach attendees about smoke dancing, war dancing, and longhouse social dancing, as well as storytelling. There will be time for audience participation and the opportunity to ask questions.

11/6 Native American Hip Hop Beats, 2-3 p.m., Hemphill Branch Library and online, Greensboro. A lively discussion of Native American hip-hop and the artists behind it, with video and musical excerpts. Call 336-412-6199 or email [email protected] to register.

11/8 Native Health and Native Destress Series: Medicine Workshop, Elliott University Center Dogwood Room, UNCG, Greensboro. Learn about plant medicines, their origins, and their uses. Registration required.

11/12 Native Plant Symposium: “Green Roots, Red Resilience, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Reeves Auditorium, NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and via Zoom, registration required. Native plants seed swap (bring seeds or seedlings to share), community discussion, lectures and day-long symposium. 

11/13 We are Still Here: 21st Century Native American Perspectives,  3-4:30 p.m., Glenn McNairy Branch Library, Greensboro. Lumbee tribal member and advocate Nora Dial-Stanley screens her film, “Leaving Home, Building Community: Triad Native American History, Presence, and Continuance.” 

11/13 Soaring Eagle Powwow. North Carolina Central University will host its third annual Soaring Eagle Powwow organized with partners such as NCCU Native American & Indigenous Student Association and NCCU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Visitors can email [email protected] for more information. 

11/16 Historical Genocide to Present Day: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (virtual). Aminah Ghaffar, co-founder of the Coalition for Black and Indigenous Solidarity, a board member on the North Carolina MMIW Coalition, and sexual assault and domestic violence advocate at the NC Commission of Indian Affairs, is hosting a virtual discussion on missing and murdered indigenous women. RSVP for the Zoom link.

11/16 Distinguished Speaker Tommy Orange, 7 p.m. Givens Performing Arts Center, UNC Pembroke. Author of “There, There,” one of The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year, and winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award, Orange earned his master’s degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for faculty/staff/children and free for UNCP students with a valid ID. 

11/18 Carolina Indian Circle Culture Show, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Great Hall in the Carolina Union, UNC at Chapel Hill. Carolina Indian Circle, an undergraduate Native American student group, presents their annual culture show. Free to the public. 

11/18 Author Talk with Tommy Orange, 7 p.m., The Terrace at the Greensboro Coliseum. Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange discusses his debut novel  “There, There,” which follows twelve characters from Native communities en route to the Big Oakland Powwow. One of The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year.  This talk is free; register to attend with the link.

11/19-20 26th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration. With both live and interactive experiences, some specially tailored for educators, the annual celebration takes place at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

11/19-21 “lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water”, Givens Performing Arts Center, Pembroke. Theatrical performances that shine light on four stories of women from the Lumbee Tribe. 

A number of notable pow wows have already passed this year:

This year’s Inter-Tribal Pow wow at Dix Park was first-ever powwow  funded by the city of Raleigh. The all-day celebration took place on Oct. 30, with dancing, drumming, and vendors, and live performances by singer-songwriter Charly Lowry and former Miss Lumbee Alexis Raeana. Hosted in partnership with indigenous community organizers, the Triangle Native American Society, NC Museum of History, City of Raleigh Museum, Dix Park Conservancy, the City of Raleigh and the Consulate General of Mexico in Raleigh, thousands showed up to take part in the festivities.

The Lumbee Tribe Pow Wow and Fall Festival was held in Pembroke on Oct. 8-10, 2021, as was the Running Water Pow Wow. 

The Onslow Veterans Pow Wow was held Oct. 1-3 in Jacksonville. 

The 44th Guilford Native American Association Pow Wow was held Sept. 17-19 in Greensboro. 

The 5th Annual King City Pow Wow 2021 took place Aug. 15-16.


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