Hi Michaella! Thanks for doing this Q&A with us!
For those who don’t know you yet, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Michaella Montana; you may previously know me as Michaella Shannon. I'm newly married, and I have a 3-month-old baby girl. I'm from the Treaty 6 Territory of Frog Lake First Nation, but I'm married into George Gordon First Nation here in Treaty 4 Territory in Saskatchewan. I'm a television host and personality, model, journalist, producer, and I'm currently working in both news and entertainment news.
What does the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation represent to you?
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day intended to recognize the horrific legacy of Canadian residential schools. Now, this is a legacy, but not the final legacy. For myself, as a First Nations woman, this day represents the legacy that Indigenous people across Turtle Island are rewriting, are recreating, not to forget the past or hide the past but to liberate it. The negative impacts are fueling more positive impacts in the world for Indigenous people, and that is what our legacy will be—resilience, strength, perseverance, love, and laughter.
How can people honour truth and reconciliation?
Ways that everyone can honour the process of truth and reconciliation beyond just one calendar day a year. Well, create sustainable opportunities that go beyond inclusion; this means collaboration; this means allowing us to share our voices and share our stories and be a part of decision-making processes; this means giving us the agency to build our own tables because not every one of us wants to sit at your table.
Can you tell us about the place your Indigenous heritage held in your youth?
Growing up, I was lucky enough to be fully immersed in my Indigenous culture and heritage. My biological father is Nehiyawak, or Cree, as some people might say it and know it. My mom is Scottish and Irish, but I didn't grow up with my biological father, so I didn't know a lot about the Cree culture. Growing up, I had, and I still have, my stepdad, who has passed down his Lakota teachings. I grew up going to culture camp, going to ceremony, I was brought into the powwow circle as a jingle dancer at a very young age, and I'm just so grateful to be able to, you know, live this way of life as an urban Indigenous person because that is not necessarily the case for a lot of people who are living in urban environments.
What do you think Canadians should know Indigenous heritage?
Something that I want Canadians to know about Indigenous heritage is that it is not universal. We are not universal. There are over 600 Indigenous communities in Canada, all with very distinct languages, cultures, traditions, teachings. So, you cannot paint us with the same brush because we're not all the same. Lastly, I want people to know that we are strong, resilient people, and we are not defined by our intergenerational trauma, but rather our intergenerational knowledge and wisdom.
What can brands do to honour and respect Indigenous creators in our country?
Well, it's simple. Collaborate with us, don't just include our faces in your campaigns. Give us a voice and allow us to be seen and heard. Allow us to share our voices and share our stories in a collaborative way. Allow us to produce your campaigns or write your campaigns. We are creative people, too, and we have a lot of ideas and amazing, incredible visions that we want the world to see, too. And lastly, this cannot be a one-time effort; this needs to become the norm.
What did your experience with our Together campaign mean to you?
When I saw myself in BonLook stores across Canada, the little girl inside of me smiled and said, "I did it. I had a dream, and I made that dream come true." I, like many Indigenous people, never saw [myself] in stores and malls growing up, so my only hope was, and still is, that there's another little First Nations girl out there who sees it and is inspired by it to make her own dreams come true. Because representation matters. When a young Indigenous girl sees herself represented in a positive light, it instills in her the drive, the hope, the determination, the inspiration, and motivation to make her dreams come true. And it tells that little girl that she is important, that she is seen, that she is worthy, and that she matters.
What resources would you recommend for people who want to learn about Indigenous culture?
Honestly, there so many incredible TV shows and movies on multiple streaming platforms that showcase the incredible Indigenous talent coming from our Indigenous communities, like Reservation Dogs, Dark Winds, Rutherford Falls, and Prey. I feel like when people ask me for resources to learn more about Indigenous culture and people, they expect some stereotypical content that gives a classroom study of who we are. Well, go watch Reservation Dogs, go watch Rutherford Falls, and you'll see: us; as we are, humans who are just like you, only funnier.
We thank Michaella Montana for sharing her time, experiences, knowledge, and thoughts with us to honour this important day.