SWANTON — The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi stands with Standing Rock.
Their flag waved in North Dakota, representing their solidarity, as the parent advisory committee for Title VII Indian Education spent Wednesday afternoon packing boxes full of donated winter clothing, medical supplies and non-perishable foods to ship to protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline.
The $3.7 billion pipeline has drawn opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists who say it could pollute water supplies and destroy sacred tribal burial sites.
Protesters are demanding the U.S. government halt or reroute the Dakota Access pipeline while companies behind the project ask for permission from the courts to complete it.
Looking at the stacks and stacks of donations on the table, Brenda Gagne, the president of the parent advisory committee, was in tears over the level of support and response from the community as she and other committee members organized the goods into boxes.
“The Circle of Courage is usually first in line,” said Gagne, who also serves as the coordinator of the afterschool program. “This time it’s helping our sisters and brothers in Lakota Sioux.”
“It’s all about generosity,” she continued. “It’s teaching these kids to make sure that they give back, because not everybody always has the luxury of something.”
“You share what you have,” Patty Greenia, another committee member, said. “No matter how little it is; you share it.”
“That is something I’m very proud about being with Title VII and the parent advisory committee and these people,” Gagne said, “because when we do something, we do it for all. We don’t segregate our own. We open the doors to everybody.”
Gagne said she’s been teaching the children about the protests in North Dakota, leaving out the brutal parts. “If we don’t have awareness of what’s going on, there’s no resolution,” she said, “and it starts with the youth.”
Each box will have a handmade card from the children attending the afterschool program. “It’s more personable and I think they need to know the youth of Missisquoi are thinking about them,” she said.
Gagne said its important the children talk about the protests and their significance at the dinner table, teaching parents about the current events. “Because there’s not a lot of awareness,” she said. “You talk to some people; they don’t even know what’s going on.”
“It’s hard to believe we’re doing this in 2016,” she said.
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