A special yurt with a winding history will be the subject of a dedication ceremony during a Juneteenth celebration at the North Branch Nature Center Montpelier.

For years, the building sat at a campground along the Winooski River in Marshfield, where people of color used it as a meeting space.

But during last summer’s flooding, the yurt was swept downstream, along with the wood stove that sat inside.

Both survived, and now, they’ve been moved to the North Branch Nature Center.

There, people of color can use the yurt and all rental spaces at the center for free, or at a minimal cost if it’s a big event.

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Emily Seiffert is the deputy director of North Branch, and she said the building will get plenty of use — from summer camps to winter tracking workshops, and classes for teachers.

“We were just actually out there today sweeping the inside, and figuring out what it needs for furnishings, like some folding chairs, some rugs — it’s going to be a great, cozy space,” Seiffert said.

Dr. Opeyemi Parham bought the yurt after receiving an inheritance from her aunt, Dorothy Louise Parham, a descendant of enslaved people in Georgia. She named the space “Dot’s Place.”

“[Opeyemi Parham] had always had this dream of having a yurt or living in the yurt and of doing nature-based, land-based programming with folks and creating a safe space for folks in her community,” Seiffert said. “And so that’s what she did with her portion of this inheritance.”

Along with the yurt dedication, North Branch Nature Center’s Juneteenth celebration will include West African dancing, drumming and a community picnic.

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