SWANTON — There once was an abundance of rich culture spread throughout Northern Vermont, but now it’s at risk of disappearing forever.

That’s according to chief of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, Eugene Rich.

“We know we’re on the precipice right now. We need to start drawing tribal folks in, or we run the risk of extinction,” Rich said.

To save their culture from disappearing, the Abenaki Tribal Council has launched a new campaign for the year of 2018 called “Bring Your Native Back.” The goal is to bring back the pride in the Abenaki culture, and bring together the people who may have forgotten or may not even be aware of their roots.

The idea is to connect the older generation who still possess traditional Abenaki skills, and pass them down to those who grew up without it. Basket weaving, language and dancing lessons along with identifying edible plants and nature teachings are just some of what is planned for the year.

“We have a lot of skill in this area that is going to waste,” Rich said. “We need to save it.”

A Swanton woman, who recently passed away, was a skilled basket weaver and wood carver. But she never had the chance to pass down her craft, according to Rich.

“When she died, that information died with her,” Rich said sadly. “So as a Tribal Council we need to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have to share this, we have to keep this going.”

Keeping their culture alive has not been an easy task, but they are making strides. In the last four months the tribe has gained nearly 500 members, bumping their numbers up to around 3,000.

To learn more about efforts to preserve the Abenaki heritage, pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.