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Totem dedication honors Vermont’s Indigenous people

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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SWANTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A totem dedication in Swanton on Monday honored Indigenous people. Multiple people at the totem dedication told our Ike Bendavid this has been a long time coming and it’s something they are proud of.

Made out of white cedar and standing over 10 feet tall, the Abenaki tribal totem now calls the Swanton green home.

“Is the home of the First Nations of Vermont and was occupied by the Missisquoi Abenaki,” said Chief Richard Menard of the Missisquoi Abenaki.

Menard hand-made the totem with his great-grandson.

“It’s a symbol of our tribe,” he said.

The symbols include different animals. Menard says they represent families in the region.

“A fox, for example, that’s for families that were good hunters. They adopted a fox name,” Menard said.

The ceremony brought members of local tribes as well as the community together for the dedication.

“It’s a great honor to see this,” said Joseph Whitebear, a spiritual elder.

“My heart is just so happy,” said Carole McGranahan of Vermont Native American Affairs.

The dedication was held on Indigenous Peoples Day, a day to reflect and look ahead.

“Twenty years ago this couldn’t happen. The state of Vermont now recognizes four tribes,” McGranahan said.

“It’s a great thing for our people,” Whitebear said. “It’s a reminder that we were here first and that we are here now and in the future, we will always be here.”

“It means a lot, yes it does,” Menard said.

The totem will remain on the town green in Swanton.

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