Credit: Courtesy of NCSSM

It was just over 30 years ago when one of the nation’s elite schools in Durham established a program to promote and celebrate Native American history and culture on the campus.

On February 4, the NC School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) will host its 31st annual Powwow celebration at the school’s Charles R. Eilber Physical Education Center.

Founded in 1980 as the first of its kind, the NCSSM is “a world-class public high school with statewide reach empowering students with the skills and knowledge to design their own future,” according to a school press release. 

With a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, and embracing the fine arts and humanities, the pioneering school “challenges talented high school juniors and seniors” from across the state with a residential program on its campus in Durham and a second campus in Morganton that opened last year. 

School officials also tout an “extensive online program and summer offerings [that] extend its impact to every corner of the state and to younger students.”

The school, in addition to becoming  a model for 18 highly specialized schools around the world, is a member of the 17-institution UNC System. 

The school’s more than 13,000 graduates over the years have created an impressive educational footprint with “local and global leaders in medicine, technology, commerce, education, and the arts—a community of problem solvers who build a brighter future,” according to the release

Powwow organizers of next month’s event promise a “family-friendly affair featuring music, dance, arts, crafts, and food” that’s open to the public for a small admission fee.

The event will present American Indian dancers, musicians, and artists from the Carolinas and Virginia to “reaffirm intertribal brotherhood and sisterhood and share with the larger community the rich history and contemporary aspirations of Native American people,” according to the release.

The Powwow originated in 1992 with the school’s American Indian students “as a way of promoting the school to the American Indian communities of North Carolina,” according to the release.

 Joe Liles, one of the school’s founding faculty members who is now retired, is “a devoted supporter of Native American culture.”

Liles helped the school’s Native students form Akwe:kon (“all of us together” in the Mohawk language), which serves as a support group for the Indian students on NCSSM’s campus. 

Liles coordinated the annual event with members of Akwe:kon until his retirement in 2008. 

Organizers say that “typically about 150 dancers and six drums” participate in the Powwow, with a “Grand Entry of dancers dressed in traditional and modern dance regalia” to kick off the event

The Head Male Dancer will be Cameron Richardson, representing the Haliwa-Saponi, and the Head Lady Dancer will be Symone McBride, representing the Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe, according to the release.

The afternoon-long event will also feature music by the Northern Host Drum Red Clay and Southern Host Drum Smokey River.

Put your dancing shoes on.

“Attendees will be invited to participate in a social Round Dance and a Two-Step Dance, with explanations of the significance of the music and dance offered throughout the program,” according to the release

American Indian arts and crafts will also be on display in the lobby of the education center. 

The powwow begins at noon and will end with a closing song at approximately 5 p.m.

Food trucks and concessions will be in operation for the event. Learn more here.

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