Yaw! My name is Marissa, and my Nuxalk name is Mukwanlhta. I am an Indigenous woman of the Nisga’a Nation, adopted into the Nuxalk Nation by the Snuxyaltwa Family, and the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.
My name Mukwanlhta signifies my role in caring for others within my community and family, how protective I must be, and how valuable family is. As apart of my family’s Smayusta (story of origin), Mukwanlhta was a beautiful woman who had the ability to transform into a grizzly bear when her children needed her most. As a mother she would care for children and protect others as if they were her own. This name was given to me by my Snuxyaltwa family in a traditional potlatch during a name giving ceremony which is of highest recognition in the Nuxalk community.
As the eldest granddaughter of my generation, I’ve had the responsibility to care and protect my younger siblings and cousins for as long as I can remember. As a dedicated sister, aunty and daughter, I believe this has reflected on my need and desire to care for others.
My work as a Birthkeeper started long before I knew what a Doula was. Caring for the youngest members of the family and upholding while nourishing the strength of mothers had come natural to me as I was the eldest of 9 siblings, and not to include the many more siblings I’ve adopted throughout my life.
At the age of 17, I had the privilege of attending the birth of my nephew Alexander, and from then on, I had gravitated to the role of providing support the best I could for my other sisters when they became pregnant with my nieces and nephews and my mother with my youngest brother. After about 5 more births and feeling that continuing urge to learn more, I had discovered that I could create a career as a professional Birth and Postpartum Doula!
My training began with the DONA Postpartum Doula Training in the fall of 2016 sponsored by the First Nations Health Authority. In the room full of other Indigenous women from all over the province of British Columbia, we all had a similar vision of bringing culture back into the daily lives of families, along with promoting safety, nourishment, and balance. At the end of this training, I knew I wanted to pursue this career, but I didn’t feel ready. This is when I found Gloria Lemay and Jessica Austin teaching the Wise Woman Way Of Birth Doula Training course. With this new training and perspective I was able to understand the importance of promoting gentle, informed choice, and knew how to begin my journey in working towards decolonizing birth.
Since the start of my Journey in August 2016, my main focus has been to empower and uphold Indigenous Mothers and their Families in their journeys, and to help protect their sacred spaces as they welcomed the future generations of warriors, harvesters, providers, protectors, and leaders. With upholding my culture, and practicing my Nuxalkmc traditional ceremonies, I have been able to embrace where I come from, and grow into the woman I am today. This is where I find my motivation to empower families and support them as they find their way in their journeys to welcome their babies and decolonize their births!