All her adult life, Marissa felt a longing to establish stronger connections to her heritage. As a person of Inuit and Cree descent, Marissa had been somewhat alienated from her culture growing up due to her adoption by a non-Indigenous family. “They did try to help me connect,” she explains, “but there were no resources available to guide them.”
While residing in DMHS supportive housing, Marissa made her first important connection to her culture. “My primary counsellor was Aboriginal, and she provided me cultural education. For example, I attended my first Pow-wows, my first Drum Socials and my first Aboriginal Youth Summit with her. This just strengthened my desire to learn more and to join the community.”
More recently, Marissa has deepened her cultural knowledge and connections due to her work with DMHS’ Aboriginal Addictions and Mental Health Outreach Worker. “I had just connected through social media with my birth father when we started working together and my Aboriginal Worker has helped me apply for funding from the Government of Nunavut to travel there and truly re-establish many family connections.”
Marissa has also embraced her cultural roots through artistic expression. A gifted painter, her work was featured in the 2016 DMHS Annual Report and is displayed at DMHS program locations and offices. She has been commissioned to do a special piece to commemorate DMHS’ 30th anniversary in 2017.
“I enjoy doing it – it calms me and it is one way to reach out to my culture. A wise person once told me that my culture had been reaching out to me all my life and now, because of the services available, I’m at the point where I am reaching back.”
“We are pleased to have received this funding from the LHIN that enables us to provide culturally appropriate and relevant services for the Indigenous people of the Central East Region,” says DMHS CEO Rob Adams. “Cultural identity is integral to recovery and DMHS is grateful for this opportunity to learn more about aboriginal culture and to embrace it as an organization.”