Spring marks the start of powwow season. Native American tribes gather to celebrate their unique culture with food, dancing, singing and drumming, NPR reports.
Kay Oxendine spoke with NPR about what the event means to her and her tribe. Oxendine is a member of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe in North Carolina.
“Every year we know it’s coming; like, the birds sing differently,” Oxendine told NPR. “It’s almost like spring arrives when the powwow does.”
Oxendine serves as the mistress of ceremonies for numerous powwows in the eastern United States. On Friday, April 17 she was slated to be the first woman to emcee her own tribe’s powwow in Hollister, NC. The event was expected to draw about 5,000 people but was ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus, NPR reports.
Waking up that morning, she still felt the excitement for the powwow. Then it set in that the event was canceled, and Oxendine felt physically ill. She later saw that some members were organizing a virtual powwow on Facebook. She scoffed at first, but then realized it was a wonderful idea.
“And so one of our previous tribal administrators, Archie Lynch, who is also my cousin, he lit a fire and he was out there and he had sage. He was blessing the grounds. It was in his backyard. But, you know, it just meant the world to me,” she told NPR.
The music lifted her spirits and spurred her to dance in her living room.
“It was just the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever encountered. It helped me. It really helped me heal a lot.”