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 HCC Hosts First-ever American Indian Heritage Month Celebration

Halifax Community College hosted its first-ever American Indian Heritage Month celebration, Nov. 13 at The Centre. The event concept was first suggested by HCC Trustee Bernella DeLaMora earlier this year. HCC President, Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr. opened the ceremony and welcomed visitors and dignitaries.

A highlight of the event was a dance presentation by students of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School. Interim Principal/Second-grade Math & ScienceTeacher Gwen Richardson explained that the school is the only tribal charter school in the state. Dance team members included students from K-12.

“You will see a whole array of beautiful colors,” Richardson explained and added that dancers usually dance in a circle because it represents the cycle of life. She also talked about each student’s regalia and pointed out the differences between dancers and dance styles. Styles included Men’s Grass Dance, Ladies’ Jingle Dance, Ladies’ Fancy Dance, Men’s Traditional, and Ladies’ Traditional. The demonstration ended with a Friendship Dance where members of the audience had the opportunity to join in the dancing.

Earl Evans, director of Economic Development and Tourism, Chief Ron Richardson, and Ruth Ealing, representing the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs and the Tribal School’s Board of Education spoke during the event.

Evans talked about legal and political issues and explained what a tribe is, the origins of the Haliwa-Saponi and what recognition means for a tribe. There are currently about 4,000 Haliwa-Saponi tribal members. Recognition simply acknowledges that the tribe has a government to government relationship with another sovereign entity, Evans explained. He also talked about sovereignty, the God-given right for a tribe to govern themselves.

Chief Richardson discussed how the tribal government is structured. “We strive to help our people in different ways in the areas of housing, down payment assistance, and urgent repair, and we help improve life and extend the culture of our people, throughout not only our community and the state, but we have people who travel worldwide sharing this great culture,” he said.

Ealing talked about the work of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs. “What we do in this county and at the state level to improve the lives of American Indians also improves the lives of non-natives,” she explained. She also discussed the need for expanded American Indian studies in all schools.

North Carolina’s American Indian population totals nearly 100,000. It is the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River, eighth largest in the nation.
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Men’s traditional dance style, “Dance of the Warrior”
Grand entrance of dancers
Speakers at the event, from left, Ruth Ealing, Earl Evans, Gwen Richardson, Chief Ron Richardson, HCC Board of Trustee member Bernella DeLaMora, and Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr.