September 20, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 38

Totem, drum raise domestic violence issue

About 100 residents turned out Friday for the unveiling of a “Healing Pole” downtown aimed at bringing awareness to domestic violence.

Like headway against the problem of abuse, the pole near Second Avenue and Willard Street is a work in progress, but it’s an important start, speakers said during the event, which included drumming, dancing and a barbecue.

“This is a community awareness pole. The elephant has been in the room too long,” said Jan Hill, former Haines Borough Mayor. “We’ve all been touched by domestic violence one way or another.”

The pole is a sign the community takes domestic violence seriously and that there is help available for its victims, Hill said. “It’s for the community to know that we recognize this issue and that we’re going to do something about it. We’re going to deal with it.”

The untraditional totem is comprised of stacked sections of cement pipe, painted and adorned with chains, cloth and other touches by various contributors. Sections will be threaded through a 21-foot, steel pipe at the site that formerly supported a totem pole.

Jackie Mazeikas, domestic violence health educator for Southeast Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), painted a section showing a woman moving from the chains of abuse through the help of faith and friends. Other sections include ones created by residents Jim Heaton and Robin Benner.

Mazeikas credited artist Sue Folletti with inspiring the project.

“I thought about trying to create something like this – a piece of art,” Folletti said. “We were brainstorming and I volunteered (the steel pipe) because it’s in the middle of town and everybody sees it.”

Folletti said she’ll look at how to waterproof the pole and she’ll consider a sign by the pole that explains its meaning. Mazeikas said others are welcome to participate by making a section. “We’re trying to make this a community project.”

Friday’s event included unveiling of a large drum, inscribed in both Tlingit and English with messages about healing. The drum will be made available for public use at special functions, Mazeikas said. “We want people to see it.”

For more information on the local domestic violence education program, contact Mazeikas at 766-6382.