July 25, 2021

Maliseets plan domestic violence vigil

HOULTON – After holding a number of activities this month to raise awareness about domestic violence, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians will cap off its campaign to heighten awareness about the crime with a candlelight vigil.

The Maliseet Domestic Violence Response Program will hold its ninth annual vigil at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Maliseet Gymnasium.

The vigil comes on the heels of events the Maliseets have held to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The tribe has held events for children and adults over the past few weeks, stressing education about and prevention of such abuse. Separate retreats held for girls and boys on teen dating violence and sexual assault took place earlier this month, as did a staff “wear purple to work day.” Tribal Chief Brenda Commander also is speaking out against domestic violence in several public service announcements that are playing on local radio stations.

One of the highlights of Tuesday’s candlelight vigil will be its display of the “Shawl Project.” The initiative is a display of native dancing shawls decorated by individuals in recognition, and sometimes, in memory, of a victim and-or survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or incest.

Each fabric features words and images, and the color of each shawl symbolizes the type of abuse that was inflicted. Red shawls represent sexual abuse, blue symbolizes childhood physical and-or sexual abuse.

A white shawl is hung for someone who had died as a result of domestic and-or sexual violence.

The shawls will be on display throughout the vigil on the Maliseet reservation, and native drumming and dancing is planned.

While heading the awareness events in the Maliseet community, Jane Root, domestic violence response coordinator, also is serving as an advocate for American Indian women on a national level.

Root recently was appointed as a subcommittee chairwoman for the U.S. attorney general’s National Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

The committee will sit for two years and will make recommendations on how better to address violence against women in this country.

Root also has been appointed to the National Domestic Violence Hotline Summit Health Panel. The group will make recommendations and map out work for the next decade to end violence against women.

Root said that it is “very exciting” to be able to represent Maliseet and all American Indian women on these two national committees.

“Native American women and especially Alaskan Native women are the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at a much greater rate than any other group in this country,” she explained in a press release. “To be able to participate on the national level to make systems changes … is a very serious responsibility but also the opportunity of my lifetime.”

For more information on the Maliseet Domestic Violence Response Program, call, 532-2240, ext. 28.

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