Melissa Etapp is a cultural transmitter of Cree and Anishinaabe heritage. The Val-d’Or resident has an impressively large spectrum of knowledge, which she communicates with pleasure, humility and open mind. Sharing knowledge is her own way of contributing to reconciliation among peoples and cultures. She believes that mutual knowledge is the foundation upon which trust can be built. Meeting people, interacting with them and creating true moments of exchange bring meaning to her work. In 2017, her journey led her to her second home: Kinawit.

“When I share my culture, I feel happy, I feel proud: I am proud of who I am. Awareness and knowledge: this is what society needs and it’s good when people can take that home with them.”

For Melissa, sharing Aboriginal culture is a privileged means for increasing awareness of its importance and helping people understand and appreciate it. By accepting to open up, we give other people the opportunity to get to know us and initiate true interaction based on mutual respect. This motivates Melissa to offer all visitors the best possible learning experience. In addition to being a guide at Kinawit Center, Melissa regularly participates in community-based cooking workshops.

Born to an Anishinaabe mother from Lac-Simon and a Cree father from Mistassini, Melissa grew up watching her parents live in harmony with their culture. Her father spent much of his time in the forest carrying out activities that Melissa found particularly interesting, such as wood and bark harvesting, trapping and hunting. That is what the young Melissa wanted to do in life. It did not prevent her from learning how to cook with products from the forest and to make mitts and moccasins with her mother by her side.

“Living my culture is important to me, as much as spending time with family I would say. Family and culture go hand in hand.”

Even today, Melissa particularly appreciates spending time with her father in the forest to hunt moose. Her father taught her the right techniques for successful hunting, but also the Anishinaabe values relating to subsistence hunt such as sharing, respect and nature. She is proud of having received an education fully in tune with tradition. Today, Melissa honors this heritage by living a healthy life, continuing her education on traditional knowledge, and pursuing her studies. Melissa will soon have a diploma in Administration.

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