UNCG Celebrates Native American History Month

By Chris Nafekh

When I entered the Cone Ballroom, I was unsure of what to expect. A few tables were set up with Native American crafts, pottery depicting pale leafs and burgundy animals. I took a seat in a circle of chairs and waited.

Suddenly, deep drums began to beat. Loud, inexplicable chanting from the same direction produced an almost primitive scene. A young girl in indigenous dress mouthed native words, as if singing to her favorite punk rock song. Then the dancers arrived.

A storyteller told a tale of a man and his sick daughter. One night, the man had a vision of four women. One was dressed in black, another in white, one yellow and one red. They danced until his daughter was well. Just like in the story, four women walked into the circle and began to spin, two-stepping around the audience. One girl played with hoops, entangling herself in geometric rhythms.

Garbed in elaborate tribal dress, they danced themselves around the circle, as if commemorating a fire that burned centuries ago. Enriched with swift colours and earthy moccasins, the ritual was a cyclone of leather tassels and feathers.

“These feathers cannot be bought or sold,” said Nora Dials-Stanly, a North American cultural activist. “They have to be earned as a sense of pride.”

November marks Native American history month and to celebrate, The Office of Multicultural Affairs invited members of the local Lumbee tribe, who share southern NC with the Waccamaw Siouan. Throughout the night the audience witnessed heartwarming demonstrations of indigenous culture. Indian Americans danced, sang and told traditional stories.

Dials-Stanley introduced several members of the tribe, including current students, the University’s first Native American graduate and Erika Faircloth, president of the UNCG Native American Student Association. The Chief of the tribe, Gene Jacobs, also attended.

Jacobs, who goes by “Jacob Two-Feathers” by ritual, was dressed head to toe in white leather. He held a tall, thin wooden staff, and on his head sat a large feathered cap, the trademark of a Chief. Jacobs, a veteran of the Vietnam War, remembers a time when Indians couldn’t even buy a hot dog in their own country.

“I was wounded three times in that war. I came back to North Carolina and ordered two hot dogs, about thirty minutes from Greensboro, and was denied service. The man said to me ‘we don’t serve people like you here.’”

It was not only in restaurants that Natives were discriminated from.

“I used to work for ten cents a day when the guy next to me was making a dollar,” recalled Jacobs.

Veterans Day was only a few weeks ago. Today it seems baffling that Native Veterans could have been treated such a way, but Jacobs has taken his experiences and turned them into stories of perseverance. “We’ve lived a hard life and we’ve passed these story’s down. It’s why our kids are so tough, we teach them to hold their head up.”

The Native American culture has rich oral tradition. Through these stories, they remember their hardships and draw an identity.

“Our story,” said Dials-Stanley. “Is not being told in the classroom the way it should be.”

“You know, I never went to a school with a cafeteria or running water,” said Jacobs, reflecting on his youth. “I went barefoot more often that with shoes. But my father pushed us to get educated. They can take away a hand, an arm, a leg even … but they can’t take away your education.”

Categories: Uncategorized

1 reply

  1. Beautifully said with amazing imagery. I feel like I was there and am sad I missed this event. Great reporting and observations!


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