HBMI Advocacy Center celebrates Domestic Violence Awareness Month with tree lighting

HOULTON, Maine – The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians kicked off its month-long Domestic Violence
Awareness Campaign Monday, Oct. 2, with a tree lighting ceremony at its Advocacy Center.

The event, which included native singing and drumming, was held simultaneously with sister tribes —
Micmac Domestic & Sexual Violence Advocacy Center, Indian Township Advocacy Center,
Passamaquoddy Peaceful Relations and Penobscot Nation Advocacy Center – also celebrating with a
purple tree lighting event.

A purple tree illuminates the night at the Maliseet Advocacy Center as part of Domestic
Violence Awareness Month. Similar trees can be found at all tribal offices, as well as the Houlton Police
Department and Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office. (Photo courtesy of HBMI)

“Tonight, we gather around this tree decorated with purple lights to symbolize our support of survivors,
remembrance of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence and unity in the mission to end
domestic violence in this Maliseet community,” said Cathy St. John, director of the Maliseet Advocacy
Center. “We are gathered in unity with our Wabanaki relatives to acknowledge that many of our people
are living lives impacted by domestic violence. Many of us grew up in homes or witnessed domestic

St. John added for many years there were no programs to aid tribal men and women who were victims
of domestic and sexual violence.

“We just had to endure the fear and the trauma of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse,” she said.

Domestic violence awareness month was first introduced in 1981 by the National Coalition Against
Domestic violence. It was created not only to bring more awareness to others, but to connect and unify
the millions of affected victims that had been battered due to domestic violence.

The tree lighting ceremony was the first of several events slated throughout the month to raise
awareness. On Thursday, Oct. 12, the tribe will host a Domestic Violence Awareness Paint and Sip event
for adults, while on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the 26 th annual Candlelight Vigil and Walk will be held at the
Maliseet Community Center.

A youth paint and sip event is also slated for Saturday, Oct. 21, at the community center.

According to the Domestic Violence website, every year, right about 10 million people become victims of
domestic violence, which equates to just about 20 people every minute. It affects not only women, but
men and children, of all different races, status, religions, and culture.

Singing and drumming a Native song during Monday’s tree lighting ceremony for
Domestic Violence Awareness Month are, from left, Tawoma Martinez, Amy Joseph, Caden Shaw, Zeke
Crofton-Macdonald and Joe Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. (Photo courtesy of HBMI)

St. John said the native community is no different, with abuse happening with many unware it is taking

“Let us demand that every victim and child is safe to walk the streets day or night in any community,”
she said. “Safe to go home and not fear what lies behind the front door. Safe to make their own choices
and not fear the words or fists of the person who is meant to protect them. Let us tonight make a
pledge to show by modeling healthy relationships, pledge to speak out against abusive behavior, pledge
to call the police if we witness abuse, and pledge to support the victim and hold the perpetrators of
violence accountable for their actions.”

The Maliseet Advocacy Center also provided purple-lit trees to the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office and
the Houlton Police Department to display during the month of October.

For more information on upcoming events, or to sign up, contact the Advocacy Center at 207-532-6401.

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