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Micmac advocacy center begins domestic violence awareness month with tree lighting

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook Band of Micmacs Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with its 7th annual tree lighting ceremony at the Micmac administrative office building and cultural education center on Oct. 3.

Community members were encouraged to place cards with purple ribbon onto the tree, containing handwritten answers to the question of how they can bring about change in their communities regarding violence awareness and prevention. People also could tie red prayer ribbons in honor of someone they know who has experienced domestic violence and learn about local resources available to victims and their families.

The Micmacs are one of five tribal communities who hold a tree lighting on the same day to begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month, according to Angel Gilberti, program director for the advocacy center. She noted that one in every three Native American women will experience domestic violence at some point during their lives, which brings about increased need for community centered events.

“The tree will be here in the administrative building all month and so will the table we have set up with the ribbons and information about different resources,” Gilberti said. “We hold these events in our community so that people can think about how they can do their part to make the community safer for everyone.”

The short ceremony began and ended with performances by the Micmac women’s drumming group. Sarah DeWitt is a drummer in the group and also the shelter coordinator and a family advocate for the Micmac Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center. She said she was grateful for the dozen community members who came out on Wednesday and those who would come to future events during the month.

“For me, the tree symbolizes all those who have been affected by violence,” DeWitt said. “It’s an issue that affects a lot of folks and so we want to do our part to acknowledge that.”

On Monday, Oct. 8, the Micmac center will hold its 7th annual Walk to End Domestic Violence, beginning at the Micmac Council Chambers within the administrative building. The walk will begin at 4 p.m. and include a performance from the Micmac women’s drumming group and a meal for attendees.

The advocacy center serves a little over 100 people annually and recently received a regularly renewed $899,135 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to continue serving individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence through programs such a on-site counseling, legal services, an emergency shelter and transitional housing.

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