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Storytelling over war whoops / May 16, 2018

On Saturday, the sounds of song and drums echoed across the South Central Fairgrounds in Chase City as Native Americans from Virginia, North Carolina and beyond gathered for three days of celebration at the Southern Virginia American Indian Festival.

This year for the first time in its history, the Pow Wow was emceed by a woman, Kay Richardson Oxendine, a member of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe. The role is traditionally reserved for men, but she is one of about five women who’ve stepped into this revered position.

Oxendine said her job — that of any emcee — is to inform, entertain, educate, and keep the program flowing. Women bring a new dimension and perspective to the educational aspect of the festival, she said, in contrast to the warrior ethos of most male festival leaders. Oxendine said she and other women emcees focus more on the storytelling.

Throughout the weekend, there were traditional dancing and drum circles, native foods, educational sessions, shopping and face painting for the youngsters, all designed to increase the visibility of Native Americans and indigenous people throughout Aouthside Virginia.

Chase City vice mayor Lisa Gillespie, one of the organizers of the pow wow, said there were more than 300 visitors this year, and she and others are already planning for next year’s event.

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