Carl Stepetin draws with his daughter, Pauline, 6, during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Carl Stepetin draws with his daughter, Pauline, 6, during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Community gathers to Celebrate Survivors

AWARE and Tlingit & Haida event uplifts those who have suffered effects of gender-based violence

Pauline Stepetin capped a marker and passed a wood chip to her mother, Lois Jamestown, who placed in a bowl.

The chip, which bore the name of Jamestown’s family member, joined others bearing the name of those impacted by gender-based violence. The wood chips were from a healing totem pole being carved by Wayne Price, a master carver, that in spring will be raised at Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies’ shelter.

Shortly afterward, mother and daughter hurried to join other members of the Woosh.ji.een Dance Group, which performed at Celebrating Survivors, an event co-sponsored by AWARE and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, held Tuesday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

“When I look upon your faces, I see what strength is,” said group leader Lyle James to the audience. “I see what courage is. I see what hope is.”

[PHOTOS: ‘Celebrating Survivors’ gathering in Juneau]

The healing totem pole chips were one of several opportunities at Celebrate Survivors for gender-based violence survivors, their loved ones and advocates to write personalized messages.

There were also banners that allowed those in attendance to write personal messages of support or solutions and a station that allowed for people to write letters to elected officials.

In total four were written — three to Sen. Lisa Murkowski and one to Juneau Mayor Beth Welden.

Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director for AWARE, said Celebrate Survivors was intended to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is October, but also in response to current events and nationwide discussions.

“It’s almost like sexual assault survivors became a partisan issue, which they are not,” Tabachnick said. “Mostly we’re looking to uplift survivors, allies and their families — everyone impacted, which is everyone.”

During the event there were musical performances, speeches from elected officials and those seeking office.

Jesse Kiehl, who is running for state Senate, said men will do better, and Sara Hannan, who is running for the state House of Representatives, shared her survivor’s story.

“I was living in Russia and women in Russia suffer abuse at the same rate as Alaskan women,” Hannan said.

She intervened in the attempted rape of her friend and the attacker turned his aggression on Hannan and knocked her out but did not rape her. Hannan survived and said she is a strong person today.

“We all know someone who has been raped or suffers violence on a daily basis,” Hannan said.

Tlingit & Haida President Richard Peterson spoke to the importance of men filling the role of protectors and advocates, and helping to stop gender-based violence.

“The cycles could end here with us,” Peterson said. “So our children’s children don’t have to come to rallies. They don’t have to come to support groups.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Lillian Hillman, left, watches as Woosh.ji.een Dance Group dancer John Garcia performs during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lillian Hillman, left, watches as Woosh.ji.een Dance Group dancer John Garcia performs during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Woosh.ji.een Dance Group perform during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Woosh.ji.een Dance Group perform during a Celebrate Survivors gathering sponsored by Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and AWARE in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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