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'We sing of the beautiful river:' One new song crafted by eight tribes of the Carolinas

The 35th Annual Carolina Indian Circle Powwow was held at Hooker Fields on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus in 2022. A group of students, children and adults sit in a circle on a green field, beating a drum
Jon Gardiner
UNC-Chapel Hill
The 35th Annual Carolina Indian Circle Powwow was held at Hooker Fields on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus in 2022. The Life by the River canoe song is intended to be sung at ceremonies, gatherings and powwows, according to UNC-Pembroke's Museum of the Southeast American Indian.

UNC-Pembroke’s Museum of the Southeast American Indian released a song described as being by and for Native communities.

Called the “Intertribal Canoe Song,” it was written, in part, by children from the Catawba Nation and seven other North Carolina tribes: the Coharie, Haliwa Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi, Sappony and Waccamaw Siouan.

The museum stated that the canoe song was written in the spirit of unity. Participating children attended workshops and helped craft the song using their tribes' traditional languages.

The canoe song is intended for ceremonies, gatherings and powwows. But the museum said the song also encourages Southeast Native communities to stay connected when on ancestral waters and to reflect on the waters’ significance to Native heritage.

"Each North Carolina American Indian tribe is situated near or on a river that holds cultural, spiritual, historical, and contemporary meaning and importance to their people. 'Indigenous waters' not only includes rivers, but Carolina bays, swamps, and ocean shores that also hold the same meanings." — Museum of the Southeast American Indian

The canoe song is part of the museum's Life by the River project, which focuses on the relationships North Carolina’s American Indian tribal communities have to their indigenous waters.

Sophie Mallinson is a daily news intern with WUNC for summer 2023. She is a recent graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism. Sophie is from Greenville, N.C., but she enjoys the new experiences of the Triangle area. During her time as a Tar Heel, Sophie was a reporter and producer for Carolina Connection, UNC-Chapel Hill’s radio program. She currently is heavily involved in science education at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
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