Maliseets celebrate opening of women’s shelter

Posted Oct. 22, 2008, at 10:53 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:55 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — When you walk though the door of Nuhkomoss Wik and see the sparkling new facility, in many ways it is like visiting what the Maliseet words mean in English — my grandmother’s house.

The new shelter for battered women and their children is quiet and comfortable, with sprawling furniture, puffy pillows and thick quilts and a polished open kitchen. When the shelter door opens, entrants are greeted by a sign that says, “Remember how blessed you are.”

Members of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence Response Program are striving not only to keep the atmosphere quiet and comfortable, they also are committed to using the shelter to keep women safe.

The shelter for abused women and their children celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. Members of the tribal community attended, as did state Rep. Richard Cleary.

The shelter sleeps 10 people and began taking in women last month. It already is full, according to Jane Root, director of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence Response Program.

During the ceremony, Root thanked everyone who was involved in making the vision of a shelter a reality.

The facility is housed in a manufactured home that was purchased with help from a U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grant.

The tribe mingled the two-year, $158,000 grant and several other grants to purchase and furnish the manufactured home, as well as outfit it with security features. Grant money also is being used to pay for a shelter coordinator.

Tribal Administrator Brian Reynolds predicted Wednesday that the new shelter would serve as a “safe haven from abuse for our community.”

Danya Boyce, a Maliseet, agreed.

“This is beautiful,” she said as she strolled through one of the shelter’s three bedrooms. “We have come a long way.”

“Back when we were first organized, we didn’t have any means to deal with domestic violence, really,” she said Wednesday. “Those who were victimized in our community had to go to shelters off of our lands, sometimes out of town. They had to be separated from their families and friends. This is so much better.”

Sally Joseph, another tribal member, also was happy to see the shelter open.

“Having the shelter here helps keep people here, and when they are here, they are involved in our traditions,” she said.

jlbdn@ainop.com

532-9257

BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JEN LYNDS

Jane Root (left), the director of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence Response Program, and Cathy St. John, coordinator for Nuhkomoss Wik, the tribe’s new shelter for battered women and their children, smile as they officially open the shelter Wednesday afternoon. The shelter’s name is Maliseet for “my grandmother’s house.” The shelter sleeps 10 people and already is full, Root said.

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