Gathering Our Medicine
Meet the lead facilitation team who are delivering Gathering Our Medicine training
Denise Findlay is a bi-cultural person of Indigenous Coast Salish and settler ancestry, proudly belonging to the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), who has dedicated the last 20 years to travelling throughout British Columbia and across Canada working exclusively in Indigenous communities facilitating processes focussed on collective healing. Denise’s work is strongly focussed on de-centring experts where child and youth mental health his concerned and restoring dignity to the role the natural kinship circle plays in providing care to Indigenous children and youth.
Denise is responsible for leading the development and implementation of Gathering Our Medicine, in collaboration with community-based Advisory and Working Groups.
Denise is currently undertaking a PhD. in Philosophy of Educational Practice and Theory at Simon Fraser University, and was awarded a Social Sciences Humanities Resource Council Scholarship (Canadian Graduate Scholarship) for her ground-breaking research. Denise’s research focus is on intersecting knowledges emerging from the fields of attachment theory, and developmental and affective neuroscience with Indigenous wisdom traditions and how cultural places-based knowledges most naturally support healing, recovery and development across the life span for Indigenous families and communities. Denise longs to disrupt the status quo and affect sustainable change in the way mental health services are delivered in community settings to families impacted by colonization and intergenerational trauma.
Denise has spent countless hours facilitating group processes in response to social issues rooted in intergenerational trauma and colonization. Denise holds a Master of Education from Simon Fraser University focusing on Contemplative Education and is on Faculty with The Neufeld Institute where she specializes in Developmental Attachment Theory, Trauma, and Resilience. Denise is a certified BC Provincial Post-Secondary Instructor and Professional Co-Active Coach with advanced training in Process Psychology and systems work.
Denise has vast experience working in community and training Educators, Parents and Parent Groups, Social Workers, Early Childhood Educators, Mental Health Practitioners and other Helping Professionals.
Marla Klyne Kolomaya
Marla Klyne Kolomaya is a certified counselor and parent consultant offering services for families struggling with making sense of often perplexing behaviours commonly seen in children and adolescents. Marla specializes in providing consulting and professional development for parents, educators and helping professionals who are yearning to make sense of the kids in their care.
After spending several years as a counselor within the education system, relishing in supporting students and their families with a developmental-relational model of building relationships, Marla made the decision to transition into private practice while completing an internship with Dr. Gordon Neufeld – a foremost authority on child development and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm.
Marla now serves on the faculty of the Neufeld Institute and has returned to her roots, supporting families within community through the Gathering Our Medicine model, and it is a most natural fit. She is eternally grateful to Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Denise Findlay for their teachings and wisdom. Marla approaches her consulting and teaching work rooted in the understanding that every child and adolescent has a unique capacity to flourish and reach their full potential when the conditions for this unfolding are provided for and supported.
Marla proudly descends from both French and English Metis ancestry and lives in the beautiful northern Interlake of Manitoba on a small cattle ranch. Her most treasured roles are partner to her husband Scott, Auntie to her nieces, nephews, and godchildren, as well as daughter, sister, & friend.
Shanelle Bath is a nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) of mixed ancestry from Treaty 6 & 8 Territory and also English and Norwegian settler ancestors. Her Kokum (grandmother) and mother are from Wapsewsipi, Swan River First Nation in Alberta. Her late Moshum (grandfather) was raised speaking Cree fluently, and living on the land in Alberta and is connected to Papaschase Cree Nation and also has Métis ancestry.
Shanelle was born and raised on Coast Salish territory and has a large family with kinship ties to many First Nations communities in BC. She is an Auntie and mother to french bulldogs. She is currently in her 4th year at the University of Victoria completing a bachelor of arts in Child and Youth Care (CYC). Shanelle has worked with youth since 2014 and spent the last 5 years working in support of youth with complex challenges at the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre in the role of Indigenous Cultural Coordinator.
Meet the community-based facilitators who are delivering Kinship Circles
Sarah Hazel has been working in child and family services across Alberta and BC since 2009. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Calgary, and currently lives in Burnaby with her husband, two teenagers, and two border collies. Their family trips to Barnet Marine Dog Park is always the highlight of the week.
Amonda Francis is a Caribean-Canadian who grew up in Coquitlam, BC. She has a Diploma in Youth Justice Work, and a B.A. in Criminology from Douglas College. Amonda has worked with youth for the last six years.
Catherine Gormley grew up in Ontario on the traditional land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Wilfred Laurier University, and has been working with youth and families for the past five years.
Angie Brinoni is an Accredited Addictions counselor and Gathering Our Medicine Facilitator. Angie has multiple certifications in trauma-informed care, ECE certification, Addictions and Community Services, Indigenous studies, Pharmacology, Addictions Care and Treatment and is currently in school working towards a degree in psychology. Angie is dedicated to the ongoing investigation of best practices and Indigenous methodologies to improve programs and services.
William Bill Mansell
William Bill Mansell has worked for Nenqayni Wellness Center for 16 years as a knowledge keeper, cultural wellness provider, and addictions coach. William is active in preserving and sharing First Nation traditional dancing, drumming and oral histories.
Justine Taylor lives and works on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Sel̓íl̓witulh First Nations, and is honoured to be involved in facilitating Gathering Our Medicine. She graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Social Work in Anti-Oppressive Practice in 2005.
Nicole Mercado is a child and youth mental health team leader at Lii Michif Optimisiwak, supporting Métis families for four and a half years.
Nicole is Métis on her father’s maternal side, and French/Irish on her mother’s side. She continues to learn what it means to be Métis and understand the history through colonization and residential schools, and the impact on Métis community and families.
Nicole obtained her BSW at the University of British Columbia, and a Masters in Social Work with Indigenous specialization through the University of Victoria. All of her teachings have come from Indigenous community, Elders, youth, children and their families that she has worked with throughout her career.
Nicole continues to develop the child and youth mental health program and support counsellors to focus on Métis values, and continue to bring mental wellness to the community.
Melissa Chalmers is Swedish and Danish (on her mother’s side) and Scottish and Irish (on her father’s side). Melissa is a proud ally for indigenous people and feels heart and sprit alignment with the indigenous ways of knowing and being in the world.
Melissa is a mother of three daughters and three stepsons, and feel privileged to be able to work, play, and raise my beautiful children in Secwepemc ooloo as an uninvited visitor on their territory.
Melissa is a Michif Child and Youth Counsellor located at Kiikekyelc, a youth housing complex where she supports youth ages 16 – 27 with complex mental health needs.
Melissa has a lifetime of knowledge in the impact of addiction on families and lived experience, as well as professional experience and education in complex mental health needs.
April Bennett the oldest of 12 children, mother of one son and one daughter, and grandmother to three children:
- Matriarch part of the family: Dane – Zaa (beaver) also spelled Dunne-zaa.
- Patriarch part of the family: Cree, French, Irish, Scots
April has been working in the helping field for 37 years, and enjoys holding ceremonies and events for children and youth. She is learning Reiki and apprenticing with the Wiwipson Swing for healing.
Brandon David is a Land-Based Manger, working for Akwesasne Mohawk Council for the past 19 years.
As a Gathering Our Medicine facilitator, Brandon will use land-based presentations and activities including canoe journeys, to bring Council staff together and help to build the strength of the community.
Joey David, or ‘Tehoronio‘ — a real name which means the sky is blue from the east to the west — comes from the Nation what some people may know as the Mohawks, or Kanienkahake, People of the Crystals. Joey is from the wolf clan family, from a community called Akwesasne on the border of upstate New York and Ontario along the St. Lawrence River.
Joey has been doing counselling for almost 14 years. He has been with Wholistic Health & Wellness Program as a Cultural Specialist Addiction Case Manager for four years, and uses wholistic approaches as effective healing methods for supportive needs of individuals and community members.
Bonnie Bradley has been an Addictions Supervisor for MCA DOH since 2011. Prior to that, she has had many years in the human services sector in various roles. Bonnie has been employed both on and off reserve and also worked with the Indian Child Welfare program at the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.
Bonnie’s experiences also include medical social work at a local small hospital located adjacent to the American portion of the reserve, as well as with the Family Violence Program for women and families where she provided support as a co-facilitator for the Men for Change and counselling services. She has also taught within a two year Addictions & Mental Health curriculum for the on-reserve college.
Bonnie enjoys working directly with families and youth, her flower garden and solitude by the river.
Madison Slobin is a Queer Jewish woman living on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ilwətaʔɬ/Sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. During the day she works as the Lifelong Connections Coordinator at Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS), and in her free time she coordinates ritual and educational spaces for Jewish community.
Madison is the founder and co-organizer of Shiva Delivers: Jews in Solidarity with Black Grief, YVR Yenta: A Modern Matchmaking Collective, and Hamakom: a Community that centres the voices and experiences of marginalized Jews. Madison has over 10 years of experience in facilitation and continues to learn from those who she facilitates with and for.
My traditional name is Nang’yuuans which means, big man of the house, and my English name is Sidney Crosby. I come from the Naa’yuuans Xaaydaga (Big House People) of the Skidegate Gidins (Eagles) Clan from the Haida Nation. I work as a Family Preservation Worker with the Wellness team at Ayas Menmen and have been here since November 2021.
I have previous experience working as an Indian Residential School Survivor Counselor, Alcohol and Drug Misuse Counselor on the Downtown Eastside as well as an Indigenous Education Worker with the Vancouver School Board. I was raised closely with my Naanay (grandmother), Mom, and aunties in the community of Skidegate on Haida Gwaii and have lived in Vancouver for approximately 20 years now.
I am grateful and humbled to be able to work for Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw. Huy chexw!
Ha7lh skwáyel ta néwyap síiyam̓, síiyay̓, siiyúxwa iy ten s7eḵw’ítel
Mestl’áxwts Kwi en kwshámin
Jessica Walker kwi en sna
Tiná7 chen tl’a as K’emk’emeláy n Úxwumixw
Nilh en elhtách Joanne and Lawrence Walker kwi snaswit
Nilh en selsí7l Pauline (Penny) Johnston Kwi snaswit
Chen sts’its’ap na7 ta Ayás Mén̓men
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Chen Iy Ukrainian Chen, an wanáxws ten sḵwálwen.
Good day to you all, chiefs, respected leaders, friends, elders, and relatives.
My ancestral name is Mestl’áxwts
My english name is Jessica Walker
I live in Vancouver
My mom and dad are Joanne and Lawrence Walker
My grandma is the late Pauline (Penny) Johnston.
I work at Ayas Menmen as a family service social worker.
I am Squamish and Ukrainian and I am proud of who I am!