A memorial in honor of a young student who was found dead in her apartment last year will most likely dominate the festivities of the Carolina Indian Circle Powwow, March 23, to be held at Hooker Fields at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“This year our theme is ‘Keeping the Faith through honoring our traditions’ in memory of our fellow Tar Heel Faith Hedgepeth,” said Jessica Oxendine on the 26th Annual Carolina Indian Circle Powwow Facebook page.
“It is sad this year,” said Oxendine, Lumbee, who chairs the pow wow and was Hedgepeth’s roommate during her freshman year. “She was killed this past September.”
The Chapel Hill Police Department is investigating her death as homicide and said the act was not random, according to The Daily Tar Heel, a student newspaper at the university. A $39,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an Hedgepeth was three weeks shy of her 20 years when she died. She was from Warrenton, North Carolina and belonged to the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, according to the student newspaper. She was a biology major on a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
“It shocked the whole community,” said Whitney Bullard, Lumbee, co-chair of last year’s pow wow and a senior majoring in psychology.
“She was a member of the Carolina Indian Circle, a Native undergraduate student and a great friend. She should be honored this year,” she said.
Oxendine remembers Hedgepeth as one with a bubbly personality and someone you always wanted to be around with. “She was in the pow wow committee. She is part of our organization,” she said, referring to the Carolina Indian Circle
The Circle was founded in 1974 to meet the needs of Native students on the campus of the university. When it was founded, there were 10 Native students enrolled; now there are 200 students, or about one percent of total student campus population.
The pow wow is only one of the activities led by the organization, which lists committees in culture, social, outreach, recruitment, fundraising and banquet.
Oxendine said the pow wow, which she expects to be attended by upwards of 800 people, will honor Hedgepeth with songs. A vendor making frybread will donate proceeds of the sale to the scholarship foundation established earlier by Hedgepeth’s parent.
Native dances will also be dedicated to their friend, said Bullard, adding that she expects men’s and women’s traditional, women’s fancy, women’s jingle and men’s grass dance to be among those performed in the dance and drum competition. Total prize is set at $2,000.
Oxendine said there will be 10 categories at the pow wow. No competition will be held for the tiny tots.
Grand entry begins at noon. The performers include Consuela Richardson, head female dancer; Jesse Richardson, head male dancer; and Stoney Creek, host drum. Bullard said performers are mostly from the North Carolina Indian tribes.
Unlike the past pow wows, this year’s gathering will be held at the outside grounds but like the previous ones it will be free admission.
“I have gained a lot of connections in the Native community and learned more about our heritage. I never really understood pow wows,” said Bullard.
Planning and learning how to organize the pow wow this year has made Oxendine respectful of the people who have organized it in the past.
She added, “It is important for all Native Americans to gather and honor traditions.”
For more information on the pow wow, go to AmericanIndianCenter.unc.edu/powwow.