Brockton veterans hospital planning tribute to Native American military and other veterans


More than 24,000 from among the 1.4 million active duty military members are American Indians, including nearly 3,900 women, according to a 2006 federal military report. American Indians represent roughly 2 percent of the active duty force.


The eagle, an American symbol, will be among the wildlife depicted on the totem pole. It will be erected at the Brockton campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System on Thursday, said Arnold Deary, an American Indian who volunteers as a program manager for the VA system.

 A ceremony to dedicate the totem pole will be held at noon on Thursday at the campus pond, opposite building 7, at the veterans hospital at 940 Belmont St.

The ceremony will include a blessing, a pipe ceremony, and a brief history of the American Indian connection to the site. The totem pole carvers and representatives from local American Indian organizations are expected to attend.

The new totem pole will join two smaller totem poles already standing on the Brockton VA campus.

Those totem poles, measuring 15 and 12 feet in height, are now deteriorating. They were built and donated by a American Indian who worked for the VA about 15 years ago, Deary said.

“They’re going to stay because we want to combine the old with the new,” he said. “We’re going to try to have them preserved so they don’t deteriorate any more.”

The totem poles are part of a pond renovation project called “Healing Waters” that began last year at the Brockton campus.

The goal is to beautify the natural setting once used for American Indian ceremonies, Deary said.

So far, project volunteers have helped to clean up the pond, weed the area and plant flowers, and local businesses have donated benches, Deary said.

“We want to revitalize this pond according to Native American customs, and give back to Mother Earth what she’s given us,” said Deary, whose paternal grandmother was Iroquois Indian.

The new totem pole will stand as a symbol for strength, compassion, peace and protection for the nation’s military, Deary said.

“The totem pole is basically a code of honor that all warriors have when they go into battle,” he said.

Deary expects the pond renovation project will be completed sometime next year.

“This is an amazing thing for the VA,” he said. “They want to bridge the gap between the VA and Native Americans coming into the VA. They want them to come in for their care.”

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Maria Papadopoulos can be reached at [email protected].


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