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Your Tewksbury Today

Native Americans Gather For 25th Anniversary Of Wamesit Indian Statue

Oct 07, 2014 11:10AM ● By Bill Gilman

Onkwe Tasa speaks at the 25th Anniversary ceremony of the Wamesit Indian statue.

He is a Native American brave, standing ever-vigilant as a sentry at the gateway to Tewksbury on the Lowell side of Route 38.
Sculpted in bronze by world-renown artist Mico Kaufman, the Wamesit Indian has become a Tewksbury landmark. It was erected to preserve the memory of the Wamesit Tribe, which lived on the south bank of the Merrimack River and to mark the "prayer town" established as a mission to the Native Americans by John Elliot.
On Saturday, a small group of Native Americans, as well as local residents involved with its commission, gathered to mark to the statue's 25th anniversary.
Onkwe Tasa was at the unveiling of the statue on June 17, 1989. Each year, he has returned each year since to participate in a Native American ritual known as "smudging", to bless the statue and protect it from evil. Tasa said it's important to recognize and fight to preserve the Native American heritage and history in the region.
"There's a lot of history in this area," he said. "There's not enough people to fight (to preserve it). You can't wait too long. The young people are not in a fighting mood."
One major step in preserving history was taken in 2013, when $6800 in Community Preservation funds were used to clean and restore the statue.
Also participating in the smudging ceremony were Native Americans Lorena Novak, Mike Roberts and Nib8iamik8muk.
Among the residents attending the ceremony was Elise Howell, who served on the committee to commission the statue and create the park where it stands.

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