Totem of Canadian Indians keeps watch over Virton

From 1955, 330 Canadian military pilots from the 1st Wing took shelter in Virton. They were part of a NATO unit billeted in the town of Marville, just across the French border, and were seeking accommodation for themselves and their families.

As part of the NATO accords, strategic bases were installed in Europe from the 50s onwards, including the one in Marville, in the French Meuse department. In 1966, President Charles de Gaulle decided to withdraw from NATO. The air force base moved to Germany. Over 12 years, such a strong bond of friendship had been forged between the Canadian servicemen and their host families, that a grand party was organised for their departure on 11 March 1967. As a token of thanks for the trans-Atlantic friendship and for the sheer extent of the hospitality, they even donated an authentic totem pole to the town of Virton.

It was a gift with a message, as these colourful totem poles held a deeper meaning for the Indians. It told stories and kept the past alive. The one at Virton was of the Thunderbird type, as the Canadian fighter jets were also named. You can go and admire it in the town park, in the area of the tourist office. Take note: the original totem was seriously damaged in 1992. Now you can see a copy by woodcarver Claude Goffinet, from the nearby village of Saint-Remy, which was unveiled on 30 October of that year.


© WBT M.Laurent