Spill the Tea With Ms. Rabbit talks etalk with Michaella Shannon.
Overcoming prairie hate, small-town racism, and bullying to become a recognizable name and face in media and modeling. Michaella Shannon is proving to all women out there that you can overcome adversity and follow your dreams with grace.
Canada’s media industry could not have chosen a better representation and positive example for Canada’s Indigenous community. A community with the youngest and fastest-growing population. Indigenous people need to see themselves as apart of mainstream media and in roles that don’t pigeonhole but rather give respect, dignity, and opportunities to grow, learn, and participate in meaningful ways. This is what the spirit of reconciliation looks like in Canada.
So lets get to know this rising starlet.
Shannon describes herself as “Nehiyaw (Plains Cree), Irish and Lakota from Frog Lake First Nation, AB.”. She currently calls Toronto, ON home, and is working in the big city as a TV host and personality, writer, model, actress, facilitator, and mental health support worker for the Support Network for Indigenous Women & Women of Colour (SNIWWOC).
Her roots are shaped by her small-town experiences and her unique ability to use her adversity to fuel her drive for success. Shannon says “Growing up in a predominantly white town had its daily challenges with long-lasting effects on my identity as a mixed Indigenous woman.
Small town bullying is something that is common for indigenous communities but a whole new generation sees it for what it is – a learned behaviour taught by racist parents. Shannon says “You can’t blame children for ignorant behaviour” and that communities need to “ hold their parents and the adults in their lives accountable because racism is learned behaviour.”
Shannon is part of the Indigenous generation z who will not tolerate racism, hate, or ignorance. They are fully skilled up to call out all forms of hate and demand respect! She says “Bullying and racism were something I had to endure on a daily basis at school. To the point where I feared going to school because of threats and racial slurs.
After school, she moved to Saskatoon City and realized “I was not the only native person experiencing this kind of mistreatment.” and was able to connect with a positive group of Indigenous people who influenced her in positive ways. she says, “I found a community of new friends that helped me reclaim my identity as an Indigenous woman.“
Behind every successful Indigenous person is a loving mother. She says that her mom would often tell her “You can’t only remember only the negative and hurtful experiences you had growing up. You have to remember the good times too.”
Although her experiences left a negative impression. She said that there were positive experiences and within all that small-town racism there were a few kind souls. She ways “there are a select few adults that I remember bringing joy into my life. These adults were a part of the community responsible for helping raise me”
When her mom was working late she could always count on the kindness of others. She says that when her mom was working late, a local restaurant would serve her “my favourite dessert, cherry cheesecake. They had an agreement with my Mom to feed me when she was working late, knowing she would be back to pay them at a later time.”
Shannon didn’t hold on to hate or anger from being bullied in rural Saskatchewan but instead, she used energy as fuel to her ongoing successes. She says “I grew, healed, forgave and found my identity, I used my experiences from bullying and racism as fuel to succeed. I turned a negative into a positive.”
When talking about being indigenous living in a contemporary world she says “We have no choice but to continue to adapt and grow so that the following generations can enter this world with an even greater chance at success.“ However, she says that success must solely be defined by the individual. And that ” it is learning to play their game only to play it better.”
And explains the complexities of living in two worlds for Indigenous people. She maintains that “we must maintain a strong connection to our culture, the land, the language and the way of life that is rooted in our very existence today. “
That is the challenge for Indigenous z, many will have to find the right balance of maintaining a connection their culture as indigenous people but thriving as contemporary Indigenous people in capitalistic markets.
When talking about her new exciting role on etalk, she reveals ” It’s been a year in the making and I can officially say that I am now a Guest Contributor for etalk.
And despite yet not officially being the first Etalks host or personality to be Indigenous, she explains ” I have my foot in the door. From here, I will continue to strive to host my own TV show on a mainstream platform and one day is a visible face for whoever picks me up first.
She says that “My work will shift the paradigm through visible Indigenous representation in the film and television industry, with hopes to change the way Indigenous people, specifically women, are portrayed in the media.
and that ” I will do my best to bring light to the many talented BIPOC people and pave the way for the following generations who aspire to stand where I stand today.
When not working on the latest cool etalk stories she has a second job with the terrace organization – Support Network for Indigenous Women & Women of Colour (SNIWWOC). She says “I am the newest member of the SNIWWOC team. My role as a Mental Health Support Worker is to build and expand a network for the SNIWWOC organization in Toronto/Ontario.
and that her role “is in charge of providing mental health support for BIPOC women in the east. This includes outreach work and mental health programming, virtually of course for now.
and that “We offer one-on-one free therapy for low-income women, career planning, workshops, wellness classes such as yoga and meditation, peer support and much more.” and says “I will address the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of BIPOC women including culturally focused programs and services. This involves working with various community groups and stakeholders, indigenous leaders, and members of the community.
Never one to limit what she can do and offer. Shannon teamed up with the Native Women’s Resource Centre to deliver a 4-week virtual workshop called “Grandmother Moon.”. It starts on November 4th, 2020. Oh and last but not least if you are curious about her rise as Canadas top Indigenous model check out her blog “Walk with Me”
Thank you everyone for taking the time to read my column. I hope you enjoyed getting to know this beauty with all her grace.
Chevi Rabbitt, Human Rights Advocate & Indigenous Prairie Journalist