PEMBROKE, N.C. (WBTW) — A parade and powwow on Saturday marked the 53rd annual Lumbee Homecoming, which drew tens of thousands of tribal members from across the county

“It’s a spiritual thing. We pray while we dance, and we can feel the spirit of the creator,” Osceola Mullin, a traditional dancer said. “You can see it in us when we dance.”

Mullin said he has traveled up and down the East Coast dancing at powwows, but few are as special as this one. He said he considers it a privilege to help the Lumbee who have moved away from the tribe’s headquarters in Robeson County get back in touch with Native American culture.

“They don’t really get to see powwows or see their people dance, but when they come together here one time a year, they are able to see that,” he said.

John Lowery, the Lumbee tribal chairman, said the first homecoming was held in the ’60s after many members moved to cities like Baltimore and Detroit to pursue jobs in manufacturing and shipping.

“Individuals coming out to enjoy themselves, rekindle friendships and have a good time,” he said.

He said the event usually draws 20,000 to 30,000 people and is open to everyone, regardless of whether they are Lumbee.

“This is a great opportunity for people who are not Lumbee to come and be with us, enjoy some of our culture and festivities,” he said.

He said the last week of festivities has flown by and he is already looking forward to next year.

“You go to all the events and have such a good time, then next thing you know it’s gone,” he said. “But I’m going to enjoy today.”

The homecoming was set to conclude Saturday with a concert at 8:30 p.m. and a fireworks show an hour later.