The Mush Hole
NARRATOR: Hello, and welcome to Episode 43 of the PMA podcast. In this episode, we chat with Montana Summers, Raelyn Metcalfe and Katie Couchie from the internationally renowned Indigenous Canadian dance troupe Kaha:wi Dance Theater. Kaha:wi Dance Theatre performed The Mush Hole, a theatrical dance performance telling the story of Canada's first Indian residential school, the Mohawk Institute on October 28, 2022 here in the Schwartz Center. Montana, Raelynn, and Katie sit with Gary from PMA's communication team and talk about their career paths and the challenges of being Native storytellers.
GARY GABISAN: All right. Today we are here with the folks from The Mush Hole. But instead of me introducing them to you, I'd like them to introduce themselves. So let's start with the person across from me.
MONTANA SUMMERS: Yeah, Hi there. My name is Montana Summers. I come from Oneida Nation of the Thames, which is just southwest of London, Ontario if anyone out there knows where that is. And yeah, my character's name is Walter. And I play Number 34 in The Mush Hole.
RAELYN METCALFE: Tansi. Hello. My name is Raelyn Metcalfe. I am Plains Cree from Saskatchewan, and also settler heritage. My family right now is based out of British Columbia, and I currently reside in Toronto, Ontario. And I play Grace, Number 17 in The Mush Hole.
KATIE COUCHIE: [CREE SPEECH] Hi. My name is Katie Couchie I am Ojibwe Cree from Nipissing First Nation, Red Tailed Hawk Clan. I live in Toronto currently, and I play Number 11 also known as The One That Got Away.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent, excellent. And in the play, or in the performance, what are you guys generally doing? Well, I know what you're doing. But the audience needs to know what you're doing, so.
MONTANA SUMMERS: I would describe our show definitely more as a theater piece than a dance piece, but the whole piece is told within movement. And that's the difference between our show than most general shows is that it's very little words. Like there are some scripted things, but it is mostly, purely, I would say like 99% dance. And it's more of a character's emotions, scenes that are being set up. So they're really detailed movement scenes that are telling these characters. And it's something that you don't really see more detailed stories do. A lot of more stories are deep theater, written scripts. And yeah, this is something completely different to get the motion across easier than what most would do.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent, excellent. You guys want to add to that or--?
RAELYN METCALFE: I would just say, speaking with Montana-- it is very theatrical. And I think, too, with our show, which I found was super interesting-- is we have the projections, which, as the audience, I feel puts that extra layer for you to visualize if you're not-- because sometimes I feel like, if you're not in the arts or that kind of genre, if you're just looking at a piece, you're like, what? I don't get it. It doesn't make sense. But with that added layer and with the bodies in the stage moving around, it-- it's a little bit easier to visualize or feel that emotion when it's all connected, if that makes sense.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent.
KATIE COUCHIE: Just to add on, I think the light the lighting for our shows-- also like super great, and the music with the projections and the dancing really sets up the tone for the piece, too.
GARY GABISAN: OK, excellent. So would you say you guys are trained dancers or actors or primarily storytellers through movements?
MONTANA SUMMERS: I'll start off with myself because then-- with my story, I guess you could say I never really went through professional training. I never really had to pay for dance classes or stuff like that. I got the opportunity to take free dance classes from my high school. And my high school was a great performing arts program. They had dance studios, really in-depth theater that was very accessible to the students. And that was pretty much my training. I did mostly just take the program starting in grade 10. After my cousin found me dancing in my room, she was just like, wow, I think you should get into some dance. And I'm like, maybe I should. And even at that time, I didn't think of it as a career then. It didn't really hit me, until I was probably in grade 12, when I actually found myself looking into dance more, and I even had my dance teacher introduce me to the woman that is directing and producing our show, Santee Smith, because her work-- it was very new during the time. I have never heard of that kind of work before, where it was contemporary Indigenous dance, where they're telling the stories that I so deeply relate to, Santee because both me and Santee are [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. We're be part of the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Our nations are part of that Confederacy. So it was really important for me to hear those stories and for me to even visualize myself as an Indigenous person, that there is role models out there that you can find and look for and, also, maybe one day meet and work for, you know?
So it was actually a funny instance where, in my last year, grade 12-- my friendship center in my city-- they invited a bunch of youth to come to a dance workshop, a pow wow boot camp that Santee was doing. And I was one of the few that signed up. There was literally me, another girl, and then the person who ran the program. And I was really excited after the workshop. I introduced myself. And she noticed that I could move. After the workshop, she was like, wow, I would like to stay in contact. And I'm like, yeah, that'd be great. And not much later-- I would say a month or two-- I got two contracts sent to me in my email. And yeah. [LAUGHS] And pretty much most of my experience has been in the professional realm, at this point, now. Right out of high school at 18, I was doing tours with Kaha:wi Dance Theater.
And knowing Santee and also being in that environment, you-- it is about networking as well, getting to know other people in the field, keeping those relationships of people who you know you want to work with and who you know is right to work with, because some people work differently and stuff like that, so you also have to actively seek the right kind of people that you want to be part of your vision, or if you want to be part of their own vision as well. And I feel like that's where it has gotten me the most in my career, is just building those relationships because that's only what's going to get you farther in the industry-- not in school. School helps set you up for education, that you do have a backup to what you're saying. And I do agree that the education route is very important because we do need a lot more people inciting creativity within a lot of kids who probably don't know or understand themselves well enough to get to that point of creativity yet. But that's the beginning of my journey into what dance is, which is completely different from the other two's, which they can talk about.
RAELYN METCALFE: Yeah, so, for me-- yes, it's very different. I started dancing when I was 3, and I only got put into dances. I saw my sister. I was like, mom, I want to dance, too.
So then she put me in, and I started off with the basic ballet, jazz, tap, musical theater, stuff like that. And then I continued all through elementary, middle school, high school. And then, after I graduated-- so in that age group, I was doing competition and stuff like that. And I-- obviously, I still loved it, so I knew that I wanted to pursue it. And I was unsure where I wanted to-- what school I wanted to go to and stuff like that. So after I graduated, I did a two-year program. I moved to Toronto, and I did a two-year program, which I also absolutely loved. I always felt like there was something missing. And after I graduated, I did start working professionally, which-- I am very grateful and honored to be able to say that because I know it's a hard world. Yeah, there was something missing. And I knew that, if I wanted to continue to do this as my career or my life, I needed-- I needed to find that. And then what I found was-- it was connected with my Indigenous part of me. So I was lucky-- lucky enough and thankful enough that I got introduced to that type of work, which also-- same as Montana-- I was so unaware. I had no idea. I didn't even know Indigenous dancing. I knew Indigenous dancing, but I didn't know it was-- you could turn it into something so professional and stuff like that. And I got introduced into a few different artists that I was really thankful to work for. And then, after my grandmother passed, everything just started piecing together and unfolding. I was like, what, why now? But I'm also grateful that happened because it connected the dots of that thing that was missing for me. And then I started working with Santee, which has been a dream because of that disconnection of that part of me when I was younger. So I feel like all of that training and stuff that I did in post-secondary growing up was-- I put that type of training a little bit-- I still use it within my body. But it's nice to put it behind and to be connected in a different type of dancing and more connected to myself, my family, the land that we're on and everything like that. So it definitely feels more fulfilling and something that I know that I'll be doing for the rest of my life, or until I cannot walk anywhere. [LAUGHS]
GARY GABISAN: Excellent.
KATIE COUCHIE: Yeah, so I think all of us have a very different dance story, which is really nice, and it's because we all respect each other's journeys. But mine-- I was adopted when I was about eight years old, I think. And my parents took me to "The Nutcracker" for our first Christmas, and I was like, I want to do that. And then I started dancing around, but there was no dance classes till the next year. So they put me in theater, and I liked it. But then I started dance when I was nine. It was just a jazz class.
And then the director was like, oh, she should do competitions. So I started doing competition dance, which was really stressful for me. I was not competition dancer at all. So I found my place in ballet.
And I then started auditioning for professional schools, and I started my professional training when-- I guess-- I think I was 13 then. Spent a year at a ballet school. It was not a good experience for me. I learned a lot about ballet and stuff, and I loved that side of it. But mentally, it was not a good place for me to be so young, especially as the only Indigenous person and one of the only people of color in the whole school. That had a really big effect on me. So I actually-- I left the ballet school. My parents brought me home. And then I took a break from dance because I was just so-- I was so angry that ballet-- ballet school didn't work out. And I just thought that was it, like that was all the world dance had to offer.
So I took a break. And then, when it came time to graduate high school, my parents were like, oh, don't give up on Dance. I really wanted to pursue a career in writing. I really liked writing and journalism . But then I just thought, I'll audition for some programs. If I get in, I'll go, just to make my parents happy.
So then I auditioned for school, and they had a one-year course and I thought, oh, this is perfect. I can do one year. If I don't like it, I can complete it and move on. So then I did the one year. I loved it. And then I stayed for the two-year program. And through that-- those three years in college, I was really pursuing a career in ballet again. I had really fallen in love with ballet. I thought that's where I wanted to go.
And then I started to meet all these contemporary teachers and contemporary dancers, and I was like, oh, wait a minute. This is fun. And then I was in between ballet and contemporary because I enjoyed both, but I enjoyed both for different reasons. And then I went up to one of my teachers and I asked him, what do you think? And he said something that changed my mind. He said, I think you have more important stories to tell than what ballet has to offer. And that really stuck with me because I've always wanted to tell Indigenous stories, our people's stories, and you can't do that in ballet. It's so cookie cutter, like what's there is there and, we're not welcome there, really. So that really shifted my mindset.
And then I also realized I don't want to spend my life critiquing my body in a mirror. I realized I liked the idea of ballet rather than actually liking it. So then I think I met Santee my second year of college. Her show was on in Toronto, and I went. And I waited till after the show. And I went up to her, and I just introduced myself. And I was just like, hi, I'm Katie. I want to work for you one day.
And then I followed her on Instagram, and we kind of-- she would be like, oh, are you available for this? And I'd be like, no, I'm still in school. So we missed each other. And then finally, it worked out, where we were able to work together. So that's my journey.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent. So hearing your stories, I think it's great that you guys found Santee and able to express yourselves in a way that you've never thought was possible. I want to talk about-- Raelyn, you mentioned the opportunity-- or all of you mentioned the opportunity to tell Indigenous stories. But coming through, I guess, the institution like this one, and societal norms tell people of color or Indigenous folks that, you shouldn't do that or, your stories-- well, not to sound harsh-- your stories don't matter. But if we don't tell them, nobody will know them. And I just want to ask you guys, when you come up against those institutional roadblocks-- maybe when you were coming up, when you were learning, or those societal norms of-- a person of color is in an artist, or they can't tell-- these stories don't matter, what are some of your practices to work through that? It could be just daily physical practices or mental practices that you do. As Indigenous artists, I'd like to hear what you guys do.
MONTANA SUMMERS: A lot of the work I do-- I try and keep it nice and easy with the work I do. I do a lot of community engagement within-- London, Ontario is the city that I live closest to. My reserve is just Southwest of there. Like I said, it's about 20-minute drive. So I do work a lot in London with certain artists.
And I do a lot of outreach. I try to create a lot of links and connection between Indigenous people and also the city of Canadians. And that is the kind of work that's important to me, is to break down those barriers because growing up, like I said, I never even had exposure to what Indigenous Contemporary meant. So I'm thinking, why isn't London having these kind of conversations? Why aren't these kind of artists coming to the city. The last I heard, I heard that Santee did come once to London, and she never came back, even though I've been part of so many tours of hers. And London even knows I am touring with this company, and a lot of people support me when I'm with this company. I have even had my whole community get buses to come to our shows because some certain cities just don't have the communication, I guess. They don't want to communicate or have these kind of dialogues or bring certain artists into their cities. So I'm trying to break those walls down. And since I am really close to the city, I've gone to high school in the city-- that I'm trying to establish myself there as an Indigenous artist and trying to make my voice more heard in certain spaces, where you might have never heard before because it's-- I feel like it's super important because where I'm from, there are so many Indigenous youth. There are so many people who I think are creative, who are trying to find outlets, but they don't have the resources. They don't have their encouragement. And I always just felt fortunate enough that, in my path, I found those people, but not everyone does. So I'm trying to expand span those and try to bring people more into the thought into the conversation. And even with my own work, too-- because I've only just been starting to apply for grants for myself to create my own stories, too, as a choreographer. And at first, I was working with London Arts Council, doing mentoring. I was working with them, doing small work, small gigs. But became a point where I felt like I was starting to get tokenized. I thought I was getting just the short stick-- not as much as I'm seeing other artists get or-- we're just fillers, it feels like because they even proposed to me-- oh, we want you to do some school videos and it's going to be sold to like the whole district, and all these other things. And I'm like, oh, great, what's the budget? What's the plan? And it was a very small budget and a very small amount of time, which-- in my head, I'm like, this is literally impossible, what you're asking for me. And offers kept getting sent to me like that. And I'm just like, I can't-- I can't do this no more. I need to go and find what exactly I want to do. Instead of these small little projects, I want to focus on something that I want to do for years. I want this to be a big project. So I took it up to the next step. And I started to apply for grants from the Ontario Arts Council. And just this past year, I got my first grant, and I went to Banff, Alberta, and did a choreographer Indigenous program there. and I got to work on other dancers for the first time, which was really amazing. And I am now using that piece to bring to London. I'm going to force it into that city and break those walls further. [LAUGHS] And yeah, I'm just excited to just even see us as youth-- this is only the start of it. Santee has caused the shock wave I think of all these artists, and there's just going to be more and more voices that are going to be heard.
GARY GABISAN: What about you, Raelyn?
KATIE COUCHIE: Yeah, growing up-- I always obviously like knew I was native. I grew up on the Res from the time I moved in with my adoptive parents. But I didn't like know any of our history because it wasn't taught in school or anything. And then it was grade-- grade 9 or 10-- my cousin came to my high school and she started getting very cultural, and so I piggybacked on to that, and we learned about our history together. She taught me how to bead. She was the connection to the culture for me because, with residential schools, my whole family lost cultural knowledge. And then in grade 10, it was history class and it was time to learn about residential schools. And it's something that happened in Canada for over 100 years. And we got one day for it in history class. And then the teacher brushed it off. He did like sparks notes on it, brushed it off, and was just like, well, they got money in the end. They got paid off. And I was like, no. And I went off. And then I just said-- I went off on him, and I got in a lot of trouble. I wasn't allowed back in that class for the rest of the semester. And then that I was the school joke for the rest of high school because of that. No one stood by me. And after that, I was just like, I need like our stories to be out there. And just being in a school-- school setting, even in college, it's like-- I knew I was going to stand out in my program because I looked different. So it was pressure to stand out because I looked different. But I also could keep up with all the white people, basically. So it's this pressure, I guess, to look different in school and to have different stories you want to tell because just-- people don't understand it. They just want us to move on, basically. So after like what happened in high school and then just living as a person of color in really white spaces, it just really reassured me that I have to get our stories out there. And I agree with Montana-- with Santee-- she started it. She's worked with so many Indigenous artists and mentored so many people that soon there's just going to be so many of us.
RAELYN METCALFE: For me, growing up in school or anywhere-- I was everything but Indigenous. So people would think I was Portuguese, Italian, every other race, but it was never Indigenous.
And growing up, I grew up a lot-- my mom was pretty disconnected, so her knowledge wasn't-- she didn't have a lot of knowledge of that part of our family. And then little times that we did see my grandmother or that part of my family, we would-- I was so young, and I regret it so much. Sorry. [CRIES]
GARY GABISAN: It's OK. That's all right. That's OK. Do you want to tell the story?
RAELYN METCALFE: I just need two seconds. We can come back.
GARY GABISAN: OK, excellent. But yeah, it's great hearing you guys's stories. Yes, as artists of color, there's-- I feel like there's a recurring theme of-- there is something missing-- us as beings-- that we need to fulfill. But then, as-- growing up in the institutions and the places that we live, there's an extra layer of saying, no, this is not what you can do, or this is not who you could be. You need to fit in into, I guess, what's already laid out for you. And I think being the communications manager here, talking to a lot of students who are coming in-- and a lot of them-- well, let's face it. This is the Ivy League. And these kids are smart, and then they have ideas of careers and what they should be doing. But a lot of them are seeing our department. They're discovering art. They're discovering forms of expression for the first time.
And what's great is that I see some of them starting to challenge some societal norms, ideas of career, or ideas of being in the world. So hearing these stories are great. And the major thing that I've been trying to talk to the kids about-- kids, because I'm a 50-year-old dude. Working in art, unlike STEM or other things-- it's non-linear. It's not like you apply for a job and then you work behind the desk and earn money and keep going and get a house.
For me, I've had cushy jobs. Then I had feelings of, what the hell am I doing here? And just quitting and buying a bunch of film gear and trying to grind it out that way. But it goes back to-- all right, you made your film. You don't have any money. How are you going to pay for rent? So I think the next question I want to talk about, and-- Raelyn, do you want to--
RAELYN METCALFE: I'll just make it small. Basically, I think you just need-- there needs to-- you need to find your safe space within-- especially for Indigenous Contemporary, you just need to connect yourself with what you feel you could tell your stories and the space of that-- where you feel comfortable.
And I think that I found it, working with Santee and all the other Indigenous collaborators and artists that have come and flown around. And for me, yeah, I just think that I found it, and I'm happy that I get to experience all the different knowledge and for me to carry it on in my everyday life as well.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent. I guess if you guys-- if you all were not doing what you're doing now, what do you think you would be doing instead?
MONTANA SUMMERS: Well, as you were saying, for the kids that go here and their understanding of what a career is or what kind of expectations that they have, to be honest, I'm still living with my parents. I actually still have a part-time job. That's the realistics of it, like you said.
You want to do and be part of these projects, productions, and stuff like that. It's never always going to be there. Even for this tour, we only do tours for a certain amount of months. And what am I going to do for the rest of the 10 months of the year? And then that's what you as an artist have to keep negotiating and figuring out is, what kind of projects you want to be working on. And these certain times, you get to plan ahead and be in advanced, like, oh, when can I meet this group. Oh, with certain people, we can't meet up on time. Oh, we can't meet. Things are going to be pushing and pulling throughout the year.
Like, oh, this is last minute. Someone dropped. You have to come here. And you already got your part-time job and you can't be like, I can't dip them completely. So it is such big negotiation with your lifestyle, your friends, your family, and also with yourself, too. I think it's super important to realize that this career isn't always so glam and always so pretty, how some expectations you might see on Instagram is. When you see those people on Instagram, they've already went off a completely different ramp than you and they're already soaring so high that it's probably cushy and nice for them. Well, you might not have that ramp. It's not guaranteed that you're going to hit that certain spot where it's going to launch you up, and you have to be fine with that. And I think that's what-- the work I like to do is being in those small spaces, knowing that my work isn't going to explode. I'm not trying to be the social influencer posting every single project I do. Sometimes I like to do projects and keep it intimate with just the people who showed up that day. And I think that's what you have to negotiate-- negotiate with yourself is, what do I actually want? What do I want to take out of this? What do I want to push and give into this? And what kind of energy do I want to hold in this space? Because that's all going to inform even your own work-- what kind of stories you want to tell. And it informs even the people that you want to work with, who you work with. That's all it is really about, is knowing and accepting that the future might not be as pretty as you picture, and that is just the realistic of it. And you have to just go with the waves. And if you're not happy with the waves, change them. Make splashes.
RAELYN METCALFE: Yeah, just to piggyback off of Montana, for me, it's-- I feel like social media has ruined a lot of that because people-- when they think of dance or anything within that type of work, it makes it seem like it has to be this big post every second. We need to see everything you're doing, where you're going. Oh, let's travel here, travel here, or we traveled around the whole world. You know what I mean? So for me, I feel like that was not something I cared to do. I didn't care about, really, that type of-- commercially side of movement and what I want to do with my body and stuff like that. And I feel like I'm a very process person. I love the process. Whether there is an outcome or whether there's not, I just enjoy the way my creativity can dabble and adapt and change. And I think there's so much beauty in that, rather than a final product or a big showcase. And I have always, also, had a part-time job because, like Montana said, it's not-- it's never consistent, unless you're dancing with this famous-- I don't know-- singer, doing a million shows. It's just very inconsistent. And I feel like you have to be strong and you need to be mentally prepared for that because there has been times where it's been months and I'm like, I still need to move my body, and I still need to do stuff for myself because this is a career and this is something I want to succeed in and do for as long as I can. So I've always had a part-time job, and it's like night and day because it's completely opposite from what-- artistry-wise. But yeah, I think it's just-- you need to go. If you want to do it, just do it. And there's going to be times of extreme low, but then there's also going to be times of extreme high. And for me, that's what I love about it.
KATIE COUCHIE: Yeah, where to start. Up to this tour, I had two serving jobs, so sometimes I'm just serving. Sometimes I'm going to rehearsal. I end rehearsal at 4:00. I start my serving shift at 4:30. And then I'm serving there till 2:00 AM, waking up, rehearsal. So sometimes that's-- it's very tiring balancing the part-time job that's going to pay my rent when I don't have dance, but it's worth it.
But with this tour, I was finally able I put my notice in at one of my serving jobs. I was like, bye. But now, after the tour, I'll have a few things, but I'll still be-- I'll go back to serving. That's just the reality of it with like having bills to pay and whatnot. But once you're in a project and a project you love, it makes that all worth it. I also-- I love serving, too, so I don't mind. I actually like the balance-- having the balance because-- well, I'm newer to the project than Raelyn and Montana. So this was my first time meeting Raelyn. I met Montana in the spring. But now it's great because I have dance friends, and then I have my serving friends, but I can't talk about art with them because they don't understand. So it's really nice to be on tour, and we just get to talk about art Indigenous stuff, just make res jokes all day. [LAUGHS]
But like what Raelyn said, if you want it, you just have to do it and you just have to throw yourself into it. When there's no dance, find something-- you have to find something else. I feel like, in Toronto, all the dance projects happen all at once. Even this past summer, there was three Indigenous dance projects going on all at once. So people were getting asked to do the three projects, but they're all happening in different places. So we're all like, who's going to do it? But there's so many Indigenous dancers now that there was-- people to feel and to get casted and whatnot. But yeah.
GARY GABISAN: Great. OK, next question. We're going to go into the time machine and we're going to see ourselves at one of the most challenging moments in your life, that moment where you just feel like quitting or you're about to cry or you just feel like just giving up. It could be recent, or it could be in your youth. But I want you imagine your future self talking to your past self in that moment of-- when the past self is feeling really down. What does the future self say?
RAELYN METCALFE: I'll speak first because mine was pretty recent. I got an opportunity. And it was within theater, but it was something very different than what I have-- what I normally do with movement. And so it was a lot more script-based, which-- I've read scripts in the past, but I've never had to do voice with it, if that makes sense. I've read [INAUDIBLE] script but I've translated it into movement within my body, whereas this time, I had an opportunity to actually use voice. And I did musical theater when I was younger, so I was like, OK this is-- I'm excited. This is something that I haven't done in a while. And I feel like, on a creativity level and an artistry level, I can-- it'll be something different. So I was super excited, and it was also with people I've never worked with before. So that was also an exciting opportunity that-- I am grateful that I was able to do that part. But there was-- within the process, I had a very tough time with direction-- not that I needed to be told to do something, because I am a professional. I know how to work around if I'm not getting-- if something is so vague. So within the process, there were just a lot of times where I was unsure. And I guess part of it is my personality. I am afraid to ask questions, or I will do-- questions is my last resort. So I will try and navigate and put dots together myself before I ask a question. And still, to this day, people are like, just ask the question. I'm like, no, I'll figure it out myself. And then if I can't, then I'll ask. So it just came to a point where-- I've never been in a process where I had no idea what I was doing, absolutely no idea. I'm a mover. I came into something saying that my role was to move but also read script but incorporate that with movement. And without direction, I did what I thought or an idea, and it just-- it would just be like, no, that's-- no, you're not doing that. It needs to be like this. And I'm like, OK, so is this-- should it be more like this? Should I move around? No, no more-- there's no movement anymore. And then I was like, oh, OK. Why am I here? And I think, within the process, too, I felt like I was outcasted because I had never-- I didn't get that opportunity to work one on one or get the proper direction of what my job was. And this was a professional show, and I've never gone into anything not knowing-- not knowing what I was doing. At least, for some projects, you-- you can riff off of like an idea or something like that. This was just like I was blindfolded. And I would say there were some days I was like-- I want to quit, but I don't know how. And then there was always the part of me in the back of my head saying, oh, that's so unprofessional. You should never leave a job. Always finish it. And if it wasn't for another artist in that work that I was doing that I was connecting with-- and basically seeking out help because I didn't know how to proceed because, from there on, each time I went into rehearsal, I wasn't there. There was just this mask. My body-- I was physically there because it was on my contract but emotionally, spiritually, it was like an out-of-body experience, like I was outside and not in the space. And I don't like to be like that or feel like that because I feel like it breaks the circle or it breaks what you guys-- what everyone is trying to master or come together and feel whole. And yeah, so there were like days where I was like-- I didn't even want to wake up because I was like, what's the point? I'm going to go there and just walk around aimlessly and not know what I'm doing. And it was a really unfulfilling time in my career. But I am thankful and grateful that I met different artists that I still talk to this day. And I look back at it now, and people kept telling me-- especially my mother-- it's a learning experience. I'm like, what did I learn from this experience? Because I am very confused and I'm frustrated. And only till now-- I still think like that. I'm like, I didn't learn anything. I don't care. I just had a really bad attitude. But that bad attitude-- I tried to-- I do try to dig into that a little bit deeper and say, OK, well the good that came out of it is I learned how to speak Cree, which-- I'm Cree, so there were words and stuff like that I learned about my culture, which I was so grateful for, the artists, the space, the outside because we were outside. But other than that, yeah, I had a really hard time. That was one of the hardest times in my career. And then, thankfully, I received an email from Santee saying, we're starting, and I was like, oh, OK, I'll just get through, get through, get through, push, push, push, and then I actually did end up, I guess, quitting. I don't know the proper terminology. I left the project. I wasn't able to complete it. Mentally, I-- yeah, it was a little bit toxic for me, and I knew that I needed to protect myself, so I kind of stepped away. But I'm happy that I did that, and I don't think I would change it.
GARY GABISAN: Did you have any mantras or thoughts in your heads or head that was-- when you had to show up? And what were you feeling or what were you saying to yourself to keep you going?
RAELYN METCALFE: Get through it-- literally. Get through it, and something-- there's something better. And there's something brighter that's going to come my way. And timing-- you never know. You never know the timing of that. I'm also a very stubborn person, so I'll just-- I will bite my tongue and I will do-- it's pretty bad I'll do something, even if it's like, no, you need to stop. And I think that's part of-- a colonial way to think. Just keep going. You know what I mean? It's like, no, there's time. Everybody should be able to step back or step out, take a breather, and be like, you know what? Maybe this isn't for me, whether contracts-- I know everything needs to-- if it's a contract, at this time, we have to be-- we have to have a show and stuff like that. And I feel like it shouldn't be frowned upon, and it shouldn't be a bad thing if you don't choose to keep going. So I think, for me, I just-- I was just covered. There was a mask. I just showed up, and I was-- I wasn't there, like a zombie. I felt like a zombie. And people-- other artists would notice, and we would have a lot of circle conversations, which I also get uncomfortable talking within. And I would just be like, yeah, I'm good. I'm feeling good today. I was very lying to myself. I was lying to myself to make it so to make it seem like nobody would notice. Yeah. But I'm here now.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent.
MONTANA SUMMERS: I'll go. Well, definitely, the hardest part of-- I would say a point in my life that I was focused-- I'm focusing on right now is high school. I definitely would say high school was the most hardest part for me because you're pushed into these directions where you're not sure you want to go.
I didn't mind school at all. I really liked going to school. I enjoyed friends. I wasn't super popular, but I had friends, at least, in every little clique there. And I didn't know what I wanted to do. Obviously, teachers-- your counselor would ask you, what do you want to be? What do you want to do? Let's set your life up for something specific. And I didn't feel like I was ready. I couldn't decide on anything because then I-- obviously, when you're thinking of a job, you're thinking, well, this is going to be something that's going to hold me off for the rest of my life or supply my money-- my money for rent and make me well happy at some point. This is the, quote, unquote, "guaranteed" process of what school does, is that you have to finish and you will get your job and you'll be happy. That is a lie because it is so much more than that. Honestly, when I was in high school, I wish I could tell myself to listen more and to also not listen to your counselor. Do not take her advice because what happened was I was in my counselor's room, and we're having this conversation-- what do you want to do when you're older? And I said, dance. I do like art. I was also doing visual art at the time, too. And I'm like, I do want to be an artist. And she said, well, that's not realistic, is it? You need a plan B. Let's figure out what your plan B is. And so I'm like, I don't even know what I want to do. Why am I forced to pick something that's more secure than what being an artist is? And I guess I understand because the art industry is not as inconsistent, as we've had that conversation with the previous questions. And I didn't know, and I chose nursing because I'm like, my mom's a nurse. Why can't I become a nurse? So I'm like, well, let's just go full ahead with that. Let's choo-choo on up. And what I realized it was not for me. I took biology and chemistry, failed both of them. I don't know why I kept pushing. I did it again the next year. I passed biology, failed chemistry again. But because of these instances, I was behind in my credits that I needed to graduate. And that's another thing, is I didn't graduate high school, and that's why I haven't gone on to post-secondary. But I was fortunate enough to land where I did. And like I said, not everyone has those chances. Not everyone has that kind of luck. So I do support the education, that you should go on into where you want to be. But I also find that sometimes you're also figuring out what you don't want to be, and that is just going to be part of the experience. Honestly, you could always try and think, oh, if I just went back and I told myself, don't do it, but it's all part of the learning process. You might even just get into university. You might finish all your four years. But then you're actually in the industry and you're like, this ain't for me. I don't like it. And that's just part of the discovery. And also disappointments-- you're just going to have to face those disappointments, because I am kind of disappointed that I didn't graduate high school, and I wish-- where would I be if I did? Maybe I would be a little bit further in my career right now, because I'm at 25 now. But then, maybe, in reality, I might just be starting the career at this moment, instead of right now, at 25, having seven-plus years of experience in the professional field. And yeah, that's just the advice I want to give, is just, really, figure out what you want to do. Don't let anyone try to push you into a certain direction that you don't want to go.
RAELYN METCALFE: I just want to say one little thing to add to that. Growing up, I feel like, for me, just seeing my parents come home-- and they were so exhausted, like, oh, I had such like a hard day stuff, like that. Something clicked in my brain, and I was like, mm-mm, I don't want to come home and be-- obviously, I'm exhausted because we're movers. We move our body, and sometimes mentally exhausted.
But there's never really a time where I'm-- actually, there's-- 100%, there's never been a time where I'm like, I hate my job. This job sucks. I wish I chose something different. And I think that is something so special. And I knew that I didn't want to go the other way, where I would complain about-- well, I'm only doing this job because I can pay my rent or because I have enough money to buy groceries. I would rather do something that I know that I love and I'll love for a long time, and whatever. I have to struggle because I'm choosing this career, but at least it makes me happy.
KATIE COUCHIE: I really enjoyed college, dance school and stuff. But it was really hard, and it was-- the whole program, we always were like, I almost dropped out last night. On our school website, there was the student portal. You could literally click Drop Out, and then you'd click a button, and it's like, you've dropped out of your program. And we would all like go home and almost click that button because it was just so mentally and physically exhausting. The whole point of it was just to burn you out, basically. I would call my parents crying, and they were just like, you have to push through. And luckily, I did.
But I guess if I had to tell myself one thing, it would be to just chill out. Don't be in a rush. Enjoy school, and enjoy the process of getting to where you belong because you'll get there.
I think I was just in such a rush to graduate and get a job right away. I was like, I don't want to get out of shape. I don't want any of that. But then joke was on me. COVID happened. I graduated, and like my rest of my school was canceled. We literally sat inside, and our teachers didn't even talk to us. We graduated, and they didn't even-- we got one email. Well, there was one teacher that kept in contact, but the program was just like, congrats, you've graduated. And we were like, all that for nothing, kind of thing.
But then I had a year of no work, and I was just waiting around. But that year was good for me because I got to move back to the Res and live with my parents, be on the land. I started beading and I pursued-- well, it wasn't like a career, but I was selling beadwork and I was doing different kinds of art.
And so yeah, I'd just tell myself to chill out and be patient. Don't rush the process because you might like get off track for a little bit, but if it's really something you want to do, you'll find your way back. Yeah.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent. All right, I lied. This is the last question. So representation is important. So when people of color see themselves on stage on film or hear music that's speaking to them or telling their stories, it sustains you. I would like to hear-- it could be people of color, non-people of color, pop culture, underground. What artists are you watching or listening to that sustains you at the moment? If it's Beyoncé, let it be Beyoncé.
MONTANA SUMMERS: Well, there's this one movie I'm super obsessed with lately. But it is an anime that is from Japan, and it's called "Belle." It's pretty much a movie about "Beauty and the Beast" but in a very techno, futuristic, virtual reality pop song storyline, where Belle is a pop star and she's famous, but there's this beast that she has to help. But anyways, the anime and the music is so inspiring for me, and that's the-- literally, the only songs I have on replay, just because the English dub voice is just such a beautiful voice. But just-- even the art, too, is really immaculate, amazing, gorgeous. I can't stop watching the movie sometimes. But literally, those kind of movies, where there's so much in-depth layers, emotions-- it's what captivates me, and I like to listen to more music soundtracks or movie soundtracks because I find there's more diversity, and there's even storytelling within those music. So, I'm always on the lookout for those kind of things and that's what inspires me.
RAELYN METCALFE: For me, I can't think of-- out off the top of my head-- a specific person. But this was during COVID-- I was flipping through channels on my TV, and there was a commercial ad that showed a series-- actually two series. One was a comedy, and then I'm sure everybody knows "Reservation Dogs."
But it was just nice. I flicked on it, and I was like, oh, what the heck-- what kind of show is this? And it was so diverse-- the actors that were in the show. It's called "Rutherford Falls." I don't know if anyone's seen it.
But it was nice to see-- there were so many different actors and people of color. And I feel like, now, when I'm looking through social media or something like that, I keep seeing more of those type of shows and movies, and it just-- it feels good because, a lot of the times, it was always white-- just white people shows, white people movies, or it was them portraying a person of color instead of hiring a person of color because there's nobody-- it just like baffles my mind. So I think now, when I see those type of shows or those movies-- and even-- actually, there's a new show on Netflix-- "Spirit Rangers," which is an Indigenous-- I don't really know how to explain it. The kids get their own spirits, their own--
MONTANA SUMMERS: Like, companions.
RAELYN METCALFE: Yeah. And I don't know. It's just nice to see now more of that stuff, especially in a different arts scene. So for me, I just-- it gives me-- it makes me hopeful for future-- future me and future-- even future younger generations to see that this is-- anybody can do this. You don't need to be some hottie, like superior man that-- you know what I mean? So it's-- I just look up to any of those type of-- especially within the arts-- well, because I'm an artist, and it just makes you hopeful and grateful to see all of that diversity within.
KATIE COUCHIE: I really love the '60s and '70s. My whole wardrobe and my whole house is that era, so Buffy Sainte-Marie is definitely my icon. I just want to be mini Buffy. But on another side, Mindy Kaling, I think, with "The Mindy Project"-- she's-- I don't know. I watched "The Mindy Project," which she writes, an I think she also directed it and she acted in it. And it was just such a great show to watch. She's a doctor in New York, and I was just like-- her dresses. It was just fun. It was just nice to see like a brown girl on TV who is fun, smart, witty, made mistakes. I really liked that show, and then Netflix took it off. So now I have to-- I guess I have to find the DVDs. But yeah, those are my inspirations, I guess.
GARY GABISAN: Excellent. I'm looking at our time, and we need to go. But thank you, Montana, Raelyn, and Katie.
RAELYN METCALFE: Thank you.
GARY GABISAN: Thank you for talking with us, and we'll all see you at the show tonight.
MONTANA SUMMERS: Sounds great.
RAELYN METCALFE: Yay.
GARY GABISAN: All right. Thank you.
RAELYN METCALFE: Thank you.