Culture and heritage wasn't something Corrina Chase was born into.
It was something that she had to seek out and learn as an adult and she says it was at times a difficult journey, but wholly worthwhile.
“My mother is Métis and she wasn't connected to her culture when growing up. I didn't even know I was Métis until I was 30."
It was only when a family member began to trace their family tree was her Métis heritage revealed.
Corrina now knows she's mixed race with Métis and Scottish ancestry.
Her journey in discovering her cultural identity and heritage has a big influence on her work with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), where she's the manager of the First Nations Addictions Care Partnership with the FNHA and the BC Centre on Substance Use.
A big reason for that impact is because she began to explore her culture with a Cree Elder when she was still early in her own recovery journey.
“It was just really meaningful because not really knowing who you are and that lack of identity always feels like there's just that missing piece," says Corrina. “What was transformative for me was knowing that this was a path forward for my healing and because I really began to connect with my spirit and had this whole new journey of forgiveness and love for myself I hadn't cultivated without culture."
During her journey, she learned how to connect with the land and find a healing spirit. Part of her healing was learning to forgive and understanding to let go of the spiritual burdens that she wasn't meant to carry.
Her journey with her Métis heritage added another layer of complexity to her cultural discovery and exploration.
“Who am I as this Indigenous woman, where do I fit in? Métis people have this long history of not really belonging in either world," she says. “We have these really complex backgrounds if we haven't been connected to the culture, so it's easier to be white, it's easier to assimilate, and it's easier to not to care."
Even though she began her journey feeling like an outsider, Corrina is now at a point where she's comfortable living her culture and adapting the wisdom and teachings gifted to her in a personal and professional capacity.
She's careful to emphasize though that culture means different things to different people, and she never imposes because it's up to each person to choose their own journey.
“If you find something that's working with your culture and teachings that were given to you, that just lays the foundations for you to bring more in," but she warns it takes preparation. “Cause it's a lot of work, it's soul work. You have to mentally and spiritually prepare."
For the urban and away-from-home population, Corrina says connecting to culture can be difficult, especially when so much of it is tied to land and nature. But there are simple things to maintain and cultivate that connection.
She also raises the issue that with so many different First Nations cultures in BC, even if there is cultural programming available at a location, it might not be from the same background or fitting for the individual.
But Corrina says that doesn't have to be an issue.
The most important thing for anyone is to show up, show their spirit and show love, and to be grounded with compassion and hope.
“Culture can be holding a piece of cedar in your hand and smelling that cedar," and even without the external actions, she says there are the internal ones. “If you can find the space in your heart, home and culture is just where you are, you're the medicine. People are essentially the best medicine."