ONAMIA -- More than 100 members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe community gathered Oct. 23 for a feast and walk to honor victims of domestic abuse and to raise awareness of domestic violence.
The events began at 5:30 p.m. at the Mille Lacs Band Government Center when men marched together to the District I Community Center.
"The walk was an opportunity for the community to support men in their healing," said Cindy Olin, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Women's Project advocate/coordinator.
"Until very recently, only women were talking about domestic violence. For the first time in our history, men are beginning to recognize and talk about this issue. This walk gave the men an opportunity to show their support for victims of domestic violence and share their thoughts with other men."
After the walk, the men joined the women at the community center for a feast and presentation by community members. Highlights included an opening prayer by Mille Lacs Band Chief Justice Dorothy Sam; speeches by Dick Diver, who runs the batterers re-education program, and Herb Sam, the Mille Lacs Band's medicine man; and an address by Elder Beatrice Taylor about domestic violence and the Ojibwe culture.
During the presentation, the late Christine Sam was remembered for her contributions to the Mille Lacs Band's women's program. Sam, a Mille Lacs Band member, initiated the band's domestic abuse program by opening the band's first safe home for victims of domestic abuse out of her own home.
"Sam is no longer physically with us, but her spirit lives on through the work she has done for victims of domestic abuse," said Olin.
The event featured an exhibit created by the Women of Nations in St. Paul, which contains silhouettes of Native American women who lost their lives to domestic violence. One silhouette was of a Mille Lacs Band member.
"We are grateful to the Women of Nations for providing this powerful exhibit. It is a haunting reminder of the seriousness of this problem that leaves no community untouched," said Olin.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month, first observed in 1987, connects battered women's advocates across the nation who are working to end violence against women and their children. The activities vary by community, but all share these common themes: mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end violence.
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