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Happy Birthday REACH! Thank you Denise!

On May 16, 2018, Wabanaki REACH became an official non-profit organization so today is our 5th Birthday!

To celebrate, we are honoring and showing gratitude to Denise Altvater, REACH co-founder, champion of truth, healing, and change and leader of the historic Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We are sharing a slideshow we compiled, a story written by Anne Hallward and a poem written by Erika Arthur.  

Thank you, Denise, for your strength, honesty, courage and love.


The video can be viewed on our YouTube channel by clicking the following link:




I’ll never forget the inspiring example of friendship that I witnessed at Denise Altvater’s retirement party in September, 2022. We sat in a big room, filled with long tables of friends, co-workers, community members and leaders. There were speakers who described the many acts of service that Denise has given to the community. Some also acknowledged the pain and power of Denise’s childhood and all that she had endured. Eventually at the end, Denise herself stood up, both to acknowledge the tributes, and to tell more of her story herself. Halfway through her remarks, Denise paused. The emotion in the room was electric, as we took in the profound way that Denise has transformedher suffering into gifts for others. “Esther, will you come and stand by me?” Denise asked, looking across the room to her friend Esther Anne.

Esther immediately got up and came to stand by Denise, putting her arm around her waist. I watched as Denise took a deep breath, settled back into the arm of her dear friend, and found her voice. Having reconnected with Esther, it looked like Denise could reconnect with herself. The whole setting would be overwhelming to anyone, to be the center of attention like that, with a big room of people looking at you. But Denise knew exactly what to do, and she gave herself permission to slow herself down, ask for what she needed and then let herself be nourished by Esther’s love and support.

I watched and marveled at the power of friendship to help us find our voices, and to help us reconnect deep inside with who we really are. I loved the way that women’s friendship helps us come home to ourselves. And Denise taught me that I could do the same. When I need to remember what is most important, when I need someone to have my back, and to help me summon up the courage to say what is most in my heart, I can call on a friend. Thank you Denise and Esther for your friendship. It is a gift to all of us.

~ Anne Hallward



Denise Altvater, Carrying Truth



from the edge,

she swam against

a genocidal current,

endured and

alchemized torture

to fuel

justice, love, truth.

She said,

the trauma is in the taking:

good home,

bad home,

the severing is done.

She said,

how you are heard matters:

to be believed,

to be received,



healing, change.

Tide-like she returns

to the low places;

they fill up,


She is a strong

body of saltwater.

Tears reveal

she is not stuck,

but changing,

like all life.

She moves toward

what needs

mending, protection:

the young people

of the edge;

her people

caught in the jaws

of jails and prisons;

neighbors, family

in the chains

of addiction;

water itself.

Her story,

a nest of bees

that lives inside her;

we keep asking for it

because we know

it will move

what must be


but it stings

coming out

every time.

Now, her body

requests rest,

but her heart,

a stone dropped

in still water,

sends out its ripples:


the sun

looking their way,

telling them

they belong,

warming them into

each new day,

to carry truth

in the baskets

of their own



~ Erika Arthur, April 18, 2023

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