A Native American powwow is a celebration of culture and tradition, and at its center is a drumbeat that often adds in number and grows in volume but never changes time.

That’s because it represents the beating of the heart, the difference between life and death.

The high school gymnasium at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics reverberated with that drumbeat Saturday as hundreds turned out for the state’s first powwow of the year. Members of several tribes joined in with songs that often appeared to test the vocal cords, while others in full dress performed dances symbolizing a way of life that has lasted centuries.

Nina Locklear, 31, a Lumbee from Fayetteville, bounced to the drumbeat as the dancers made their way into a sacred circle. She was holding her 8-month-old son, Chase; he bobbed up and down in her arms, eyes wide open to the parade of brightly colored dancers in feathers and animal hides.

“It’s just a way to celebrate our heritage, our culture and share it with other people,” Locklear said. “A lot of these people are not related, but they consider themselves family and friends because they powwow together.”


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