How A Virtual Powwow Helped Heal A Spirit Broken During The Pandemic
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And this is powwow season. This is the time of year when Native American tribes should be getting together to cook, eat, dance, drum and celebrate their culture. Kay Oxendine is an author and a member of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe in North Carolina. She's the longtime emcee for the tribe's powwow and was set to do it again this year, but then the coronavirus outbreak.
KAY OXENDINE: Every year, we know it's coming like the birds sing differently. It's almost like spring arrives when the powwow does, and that energy was still here. We knew it was canceled. What we didn't expect was that feeling would still be here. So I wake up on Friday morning, and I jumped out of bed and I'm like, yay, and I said to my son, it's powwow time. And he was like, Mom. I actually - I got physically ill. It felt like I was pregnant but couldn't give birth.
I noticed on Facebook that one of the tribal council members had started something called virtual Haliwa powwow. And I'm like, man, you know, stop, you know (laughter)? What are you doing? But it was so wonderful because what she encouraged people to still dress in their regalia. And our previous tribal administrator, Archie Lynch, he lit a fire and he was out there. And he had sage. He was blessing the grounds. It was in his backyard, but it just meant the world to me. Saturday night after the powwow, we have what we call an afterparty, and it's usually deejayed.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, yeah.
OXENDINE: So one of our tribal members held a virtual powwow party. Oh, my God.
(SOUNBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Are ya'll ready to party?
OXENDINE: I'm sitting in my room. The music is blasting. I'm sitting in front of my computer. I'm dancing in my living room. My son thinks I've lost my mind. That helped me. It really helped me heal a lot.
GREENE: Kay Oxendine on the tribal powwow season that wasn't this year.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio version of this story incorrectly says that Kay Oxendine is the longtime emcee of the Haliwa Saponi Powwow. She is a longtime powwow emcee, but this was to be her first time for the Haliwa Saponi.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.