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Totem Poles Built By NATIVES Students And Staff Now Grace Two Eugene Schools

Brian Bull

Two Eugene schools were bestowed towering, hand-carved totem poles yesterday, by the 4J NATIVES program. 

COVID-19 delayed delivery of the first pole to North Eugene High School by nearly a year. There was a much smaller crowd than usual, but they were no less appreciative.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
The installed totem pole at Madison Middle School, February 24, 2021.

“It’s a way to honor our native staff, students and community, to honor the land on which our school is built,” NEHS princial Trinity Welch-Radabaugh told KLCC.

North Eugene senior Halie Nightpipe (Lakota Sioux) and junior Keith Schick (Chiricahua Apache), both with the NATIVES program, were pleased to see the poles installed.  They helped strip bark and chisel the design features into the raw wooden surface.

“It feels really great because we’ve worked so hard to get this thing up, and we finally got it up,” said Nightpipe.

“It feels good to know that like, when I graduate, our legacy will still be here,” added Schick.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Keith Schick (left) and Halie Nightpipe (right) attend North Eugene High School and are both active in the 4J NATIVES program.

The second pole was installed at Madison Middle School.  Both deliveries were accompanied by a blessing ceremony with burning sage (called "smudging") and NATIVES director Brenda Brainard and the students sang the song of the American Indian Movement.

NATIVES staff say once on-campus schools are in session and the pandemic has waned, there’ll be a larger ceremony for the totem poles. 

WEB EXTRA: Watch a video of the transport, delivery, and installation of the 4J NATIVES totem poles to North Eugene High and Madison Middle School.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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