CHAPEL HILL — The sounds of drums beating, feat stomping and native singing on Saturday echoed amidst memories of Faith Hedgepeth, the UNC student who was slain six months ago at age 19.
Members of Hedgepeth’s family were on hand as UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Indian Circle, a student organization Hedgepeth was involved in, hosted a powwow in her honor inside Fetzer Gym. In the family reunion-like celebration, Hedgepeth’s kin saw how many supporters she had in her circle.
“To see all the people further acknowledges the impact she had in her short life, and how she continues to impact people,” said Hedgepeth’s brother, Chad Hedgepeth. “I don’t expect people to dwell on my sister, but to see people come out like this is pretty special.”
Hedgepeth was a Warrenton native and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, whose members call land along the line of Halifax and Warren counties home. Hundreds were in attendance Saturday to outline a stage for the intertribal powwow in her name.
On one end of the gym floor were teams of drummers. On the other end, dancers of all ages cloaked in regalia of all colors lined up. Their grand entry officially kicked off the event just after noon.
For hours to follow, the crowd would hear different drumming styles and see various forms of dance, but not before organizers took time to recognize what – in this case who – had drawn the circle together.
‘Full of life as ever’
Marcus Collins, assistant dean for the UNC Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling and an adviser to the Carolina Indian Circle, spoke briefly on his lasting impression of Hedgepeth. Then he presented family members with a box full of note cards on which Hedgepeth’s classmates had written heartfelt expressions about the impact she had on their lives.
Collins was also Hedgepeth’s academic adviser. He saw her during a visit the week she was murdered. His last memory is of a happy young woman who was “full of life as ever.”
“I think one of the things (Hedgepeth left behind) was to really embrace life fully,” Collins said. “She was one of those people that really saw the good in people. While she was here, and even going forward, she challenged us that way.”
Hedgepeth was Alexis Evans’ aunt, but exactly one year separated the two. They lived together in their early childhoods and never lived beyond walking distance from each other until they moved away for college.
Evans, 19, said the theme of the Carolina Indian Circle’s 26th annual powwow, “Keeping the Faith, Through Honoring Our Traditions,” was suiting. “It’s good for all of us to get to come together and see how many people cared about her,” she said. “It kind of keeps her alive for us.”
Hoping for justice
Evans and Chad Hedgepeth said they hope the powwow will serve a purpose beyond remembering a lost loved one. “As far as the killer is concerned, they’re still out there,” Chad Hedgepeth said. “I would hope events like this would put a bigger burden on them, that they might slip up. Or maybe it will jog someone else’s memory or encourage someone who knows something to feel compelled to bring that information forward.”
A roommate discovered Hedgepeth’s body in their apartment in the Hawthorne at the View complex on Sept. 7, 2012. Chapel Hill police announced in January they had a man’s DNA evidence from the scene. It marked the first time police released information on the case since initial statements indicating they did not believe the killing to be random.
Police have not released any more information on the case out of concern it might interfere with their investigation. A judge on March 13 resealed search warrants on the case for 60 more days for the same reason.