UVM student receives funding for statue honoring Indigenous peoples

Junior Maddie Henson sits in the Waterman building at UVM, wearing a jacket with deer bone buttons passed down from her family. Photo by Elaina Sepede / Vermont Cynic

Reitz Wishtischin is a reporter for the Vermont Cynic, where a version of this story was first published.

With a donation from an anonymous donor, a University of Vermont junior will lead an effort to design and place a statue on the Burlington campus in honor of Indigenous peoples.

Maddie Henson, a student who co-founded the Indigenous People’s Collective, recently received $ 100,000 from the UVM Foundation for the project.

The idea for the statue arose out of a discussion that began two years ago within the university’s student government association. Henson is also chair of the association’s committee on student action and well-being, although the project is separate from the SGA and linked to her work with the Indigenous Peoples Collective.

Henson was joined in the business by Erika Nestor, director of major gifts at the UVM Foundation, and Tiffany Tuttle, pre-doctoral fellow in social work and First Nations scholarship holder at the university.

Nestor was unable to comment due to UVM Foundation media policy, which requires all statements to come from the CEO, according to an email from Ben Yousey-Hindes, assistant vice president for communications and stewardship.

CEO Jim Keller declined to comment.

Henson said the donor is a UVM alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous in order to focus on Indigenous students on campus.

Expressing surprise at receiving the $ 100,000 donation, Henson said she discovered it during a phone call from Nestor after pitching the idea to the UVM Foundation.

“I was in shock for a few weeks. … It went from zero to a hundred, ”Henson said.

Henson and his team are still budgeting the money for different aspects of the statue. They will select an artist from an indigenous New England tribe and leave the actual representation of the statue to the artist. They also plan to set aside part of the funds for future maintenance.

The purpose of the statue’s creation is to display a commitment to caring for the next seven generations, which relates to Indigenous traditions stating that today’s choices will result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. .

Still, Henson wants the statue to be interactive. She expects it to focus on the elder-to-child relationship and teach the past to the next generation and preserve the future. She imagines a woman with outstretched hands on which children can jump or sit.

Maddie Henson believes that an area near the Waterman building on the UVM campus would be a possible location for the statue honoring Indigenous peoples. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

Henson, whose tribal ties are all in the West, said she had no personal connection to local indigenous groups, but enjoyed learning more about tribal politics. Her colleague in the project, First Nations compatriot Tiffany Tuttle, is a member of the Santee Sioux tribe of the Dakota Nation, according to the UVM Foundation website.

“There is no specific tribe (the statue honors),” Henson said. “I want it to be a beacon for all Aboriginal people. “

Tuttle shares Henson’s hope and vision that the statue will be a site of societal participation. Tuttle said this project isn’t just for Indigenous people, it’s for the entire UVM community and the greater Burlington area.

“My perspective on Indigenous issues is not one that all Indigenous peoples share,” Henson said. “I’m not the only point on campus for activism. I happen to be the most visible because of my SGA work.

Henson said an ideal location for the statue would be across from the Waterman Building, the university’s main administrative building.

“UVM made a promise to Indigenous communities to do better,” Henson said. “(Hope) people notice there is a problem.”

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