With a traditional opening of prayer and the drumming and signing of an Elder, the Mary May Healing Centre at Sheshatshiu Innu First Nations officially opened last Friday.
Chief Sebastien Benuen who is proud and humbled by the opening of the centre says the building was the Innu’s own creation.
“We know as Innu, we deal with daily issues and they (the Innu) need access that is appropriate for their family circumstances and their Innu culture,” he said.
Chief Sebastien says that other governments never understood a place that would offer help for the people. He feels the government wanted a place that suited their own views and how the centre should operate and serve the clients of Sheshatshiu.
“We know that this did not work, and Innu Healing Centre, staff and council worked together to design and financed our own facility,” he added.
“How they stood upright (the Government) and how they should serve clients, after all that it did not work, unable to get the funds the Innu Healing Centre got together to get the funds and financing a built our own facility,” Added Chief Sebastien.
Chief Sebastien said with the opening of the centre, it brings front line healing staff into one facility and is in a design in which the Innu needs are met and to help with the issues Innu face.
In describing the centre he said the Circle meeting room reminded Chief Sebastien sitting around the stove or campfire. While the large gathering hall reminded him of being inside a big tent with a small room for privacy that you would find in your own tent.
“This is a place where real help igists and once inside they (the Innu) will be more comfortable in talking too and dealing with issues that they face,” he added.
Chief Sebastien said all Innu should be proud of what has been built and what it offers to all families.
“I am truly humbled today that this centre is dedicated to a true leader amongst the Innu, Mary May Osmond. All of you know Mary May, and what she did for us,” he said.
Mary May Osmond dedicated her life to helping others especially the Innu.
“If you were at work or at home, you knew you always had hope and you could talk to her, know matter what the problem was. Mary May’s family had to deal with the tough challenges, but rather give into the challenges, she devoted her life to helping others,” said Chief Sebastien.
Grand Chief Joseph Riche congratulated the hard work that the workers did in completing the Healing Centre. He said they named it Mary May, so it would be a name no one would forget.
“Her name runs deep with the Innu and she touched a lot of hearts. She helped a lot of people, in lifting the spirit of the Innu,” he added.
Grand Chief Riche recalls going over to Mary May and her husband Gerald’s home and they would sit and drink coffee, while Mary May talked about how beautiful the country was How she loved to watch the sunrise and the calming of the river.
“And I always thought, how can make Sheshatshiu this wonderful place it is? One example is this place (the Centre), it is very, very nice and has a very nice name,” he added.
MP Peter Penashue said Mary May made many notable contributions to the Innu community and the Healing Centre is a testament to the contributions she made.
“This Centre will stand as a monument to her legacy of dedication and her dedicated service to the people of Sheshatshiu and will remain a testament to her devotion to our community,” he said.
Penashue said Mary May worked hard to bring all accessible services and resources to better serve the community, that was needed to heal grow and prosper.
“This centre is here to provide these supports and services to those in our community who truly need it most,” he added.
Penashue said there are many in the community whose working circumstances affect their health and the well-being of their families.
“Mary May Centre strives to integrate the principles of health promotion, community development and community involvement,” he said.
Penashue said that the services offered by the Mary May healing Centre will positively impact the health of the people of Sheshatshiu.
Jack Penashue, Director of Social Services thanks the people of Sheshatshiu for coming to the opening of the Healing Centre.
“I want to thank our leaders and visionaries, they have fit the path of healing and recovery for us,” he said.
Penashue said that when he became the Health director in 2008, the dreams of Mary May and his family motivated him because they all started the path of healing for the people of Sheshatshiu.
“They have put the Innu on the road to healing and recovery. They have become my mentors, my co-workers and my friends,” he said.
Penashue says the building will be a place of hope for the Innu that will be used as a safe haven, a place to gather and to heal the wounds from the past.
“It has been along time coming to find a place of their own,” he added.
Penashue said with the opening of the centre the Innu would become better members of society.
“When we become healthier, we become better sons, daughters, parents and grandparents,” he said.