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HCC hosts second annual American Indian Heritage Month Celebration


Halifax Community College hosted its second annual American Indian Heritage Month celebration, Nov. 12 at The Centre. The keynote speaker for the event was Executive Director of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs Greg Richardson.


“We don’t want to forget our heritage and we don’t want our heritage to be overlooked,” said Richardson. “We’re evolving in North Carolina and we’re evolving in our state and in our nation. We’re certainly not where we were in the 50’s. We’re certainly not where we were in 1492, no one is. We all have better opportunities now. ” He discussed the educational opportunities for American Indians, the cultural diversity of the HCC board of trustees, and how important collaborative partnerships can be for the community.


Richardson highlighted some of the tribes’ activities in the state, the benefits of tribal recognition by state and federal government and treaty tribes. He also mentioned that Indians must enroll as a member of a tribe. Individuals are not automatically made a member unless they enroll. As a tribal member, individuals are then eligible for services.


In addition, he talked about reservations. “Most American Indians do not live on reservations. …There is an impression that all American Indians live on reservations. …The 2000 census data will show that 62 percent or more of the American Indians in the United States do not live on reservations. They live in communities just like yourselves,” said Richardson. He explained that the Eastern Band of Cherokee is the only formal reservation in the state that has land in trust from the United States.


Richardson also talked about the activities of a modern American Indian tribe including meeting needs such as housing, day care, and education. He discussed whether the terms “Native American” or “American Indian” were appropriate. In the 1970s, it became fashionable to say “Native American.” However, native people prefer the term, “American Indian.”


“Tribes are doing things and making progress in our communities,” said Richardson as he explained the economic development of the Cherokee and the Lumbee tribes. While on stage, he presented a 2009-2010 American Indian Heritage Month proclamation to HCC President Dr. Ervin V. Griffin Sr. and the board of trustees.


During the program, poet Adam Richardson shared some of his poetry with the audience. Plus, there was a presentation by the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School Dance Team and Red Earth Drummers. Gwen Richardson, who is a teacher at the school, explained that dancers usually dance in a circle because it represents the cycle of life. She 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 Shaw Dance, and Men’s Traditional. The demonstration also included a military veterans’ honor dance and ended with a Friendship Dance where members of the audience had the opportunity to join in the dancing. Dance team members included students from K-12 plus some HCC students.


North Carolina’s American Indian population totals nearly 100,000. It is the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River, sixth largest in the nation. There are eight American Indian tribes in North Carolina.

Grand entrance of dancers


Executive Director of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs Greg Richardson