All posts by Carolyn Potts

Teacher. Writer. Mom. Masters' Candidate, Faculty of Education, Western University. Studying Pop Culture Media as a Decolonizer of Education Policy and Practice. I also volunteer as a Girl Guide leader in my spare time.

On location with APTN’s Wild Archaeology

Inside the longhouse at Kayanase, Six Nations

In July of 2017, I caught up with the cast and crew of APTN’s Wild Archaeology while they were shooting Season 2 episodes in Southern Ontario. The day I arrived on set, hosts Dr. Rudy Reimer, Jenifer Brousseau and Jacob Pratt were on location at the Longhouse in Ohsweken, Six Nations. Despite the humidity Southern Ontario summers are known for, inside this structure there was a cool breeze and if I could bottle the scent of sun warmed freshly hewn lumber, I would be the happiest of campers on earth!

I decided to speak with co-host Jacob Pratt first.

How has the show surprised you?
Jacob Pratt: I always thought the show was aimed at an older audience, late teens and older. But from what I have seen, a lot of kids aged 8-10 are really into the show. They have been really engaged by it. I think that is really surprising for me because it is expanding the intended viewership, not just older teens but a very young audience which is really cool to see.

(l-r) Getting furry with Jenifer, Brousseau, Dr. Rudy Reimer and Jacob Pratt

And, how have you surprised yourself?
I think they wanted me on the show because of my cultural understanding, and I have a good understanding of my own culture [Dakota], but I know about the Cree, and the Haudenosawnee because I have lived in the areas. So in general, I feel very competent about knowing other First Nations cultures. But, throughout last season, I was actually surprised with the number of similarities about other nations that I didn’t know about and the absolute ignorance I had in terms of the Inuit or the Inuvialuit and things like the whale blubber. It was really interesting. That was a surprise too: I never thought I would like whale blubber, but I do, especially with HP Sauce. There are things like that. I always thought I was very culturally aware but I keep finding things that are brand new, that surprise me.

For me, this is a journey of adding to my cultural understanding and  actually that is one of my passions, learning about other people’s cultures  because it makes me a more understanding person in my life in general. I really, really liked learning the things that I would never have imagined like here in Ontario. Stories that tell how long ago the Great Lakes were lower and then a beaver dam broke and they filled up very quickly. Now scientists are talking about how the lake levels were much lower and, 60 feet down, there are caribou runs. They talk about when that water did fill up, it filled up very quickly. For me, it was amazing hearing these traditional stories I have always heard, then hearing these stories that unknowingly scientists are backing up these stories. It is really giving weight to our oral history. Because scientists are now telling the stories that we have been telling for thousands of years. That to me is I think what hit me the most during Season 1.

Next, I sat down with show creator, producer, writer, Tracy German, to get a feel for what we can expect this season.

Dr. Rudy, Jenifer, and Jacob (not shown) being graded on their rope-making skills by Kerdo Deer of Kayanase

Your message in Season 1 was very clear: take the oral histories from various nations and verify that history through archaeological discovery. Moving forward into Season 2, how are your expanding upon that theme?
Tracy German: Moving on in Season 2, we are going to continue doing what we do well. So, yes, we still connect the stories to real people and culture. We start with the inspiration from an oral teaching from an elder and then try to find the link to the archaeological record. In Season 2, we plan to incorporate more experimental archaeology. Like we just saw in the Longhouse, Kerdo Deer of Kayanase was demonstrating the traditional rope making. It is another form of reclamation and it is about learning the use of traditional medicines and plants and techniques. I think we will be going further into that in Season 2, and I hope we will be getting a bit more political or edgier as we move forward; pushing into ideas of repatriation and sacredness. Topics like #noDAPL and water; there are so many avenues. Gas and fracking, whatever, there are multiple fronts where we can act as activists for Indigenous people. When opportunities like that arise naturally and organically, and we can contribute to the cause, we will definitely be incorporating that into our storytelling. This season, I am starting with my journey, as a woman and where I am from. This is my home turf – Six Nations and my ancestry on my mother’s side is Haudenosawnee. We are starting in the Longhouse in a matriarchal culture. Already that is starting out political. And our camera operator in there, Jon Elliott, is Tuscarora and his family is from here. There are always multiple reasons why we start where we do but I do like telling the strong matriarchal story and I think that will come out in the grandmothers and the teachings of the strong womenfolk across the country.

I also had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Rudy Reimer, Ph.D., of Simon Fraser University.

Wiring Dr. Rudy for sound before the shoot begins (I LOVED how the sunlight was streaming into the longhouse here)

How has this experience, as a teacher, as a professor, influenced your life in academia?
Dr. Rudy Reimer: That’s a good question. Filming and being on the set of WA is a really interesting experience in terms of personally looking at the archaeology across Canada. When I lecture, some things are a little abstract and having the opportunity to come to places like Six Nations here, and other locations, allows me to put what I have read into context and more appropriately getting to experience the local First Nations first-hand, talking to community members, getting their perspective, and their history as opposed to what you would get in a standard textbook. What that allows me to do is integrate that into how I teach and lecture, but also it has been beneficial at another level. Each episode is pretty much the equivalent to a publication, and it really helps me professionally. Personally interacting with my crew and interacting with my co-hosts, still being in the role of an educator, for each episode makes for a great experience all around.

What are you most looking forward to this season?
This season, we are here in Ontario for two episodes and then we are back on the west coast. I believe we are going to Sechelt, B.C., and then to northern British Columbia. It doesn’t matter where we go, because I look forward to each set and each episode. It is really fun to arrive because I know the archaeologists, I know their research, and what is really exciting for me is, again, to see that first hand, and to interact with my colleagues, fellow academics but also, people in the communities. For example, we are at the lacrosse games yesterday during North American Indigenous Games 2017, and just sitting in the stands talking to the local community. I wore a t-shirt with some Squamish words on it and I got some funny looks but then people come up and talk to you. Everyone is wearing local lacrosse jerseys or t-shirts, so it is a cultural experience and an academic experience at each location.

Finally, I caught up with co-host Jenifer Brousseau and followed up with a theme we touched on last season when I last spoke with her.

Selfie time!

When we last spoke, you discussed your experiences in both the Longhouse in the B.C. interior and the teepee at Head-Smashed-In with Reg Crowshoe. In Season 2 you have spent some time in the Longhouse at the Museum of Archaeology in London, Ont., and now this amazing structure here at Kayanase. How are these experiences in these structures weaving into the fabric of your own personal journey of reclamation?
Jenifer Brousseau: I find coming here really neat because when I come home to Ontario and connect to the land here, it is always so very different. I personally feel that a lot of my reclamation has happened on the West Coast. If you ever go to the West Coast and connect with the people there, you recognize how proud they are as a people to be Indigenous. I experienced a lot less of that growing up in Ontario. Now coming back and having the opportunity to go to the Aanishnawbeg Longhouse in London—which is closer to my own heritage—and learning things [I did not while] growing up is a journey. Going to the big house on the West Coast as opposed to the Longhouse here it is almost like getting to be a part of things here that were initially lost. Having spent time in the west, reclaiming parts of my identity to return home to start Season 2 and learning about all of these things that for me at home were covered as I grew up, I get to uncover them both on the show. That is what is so fabulous about my journey this upcoming season.

My thanks go to Tracy German for allowing me the opportunity to visit your set. And to Jacob, Dr. Rudy and Jenifer, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Miigwetch.

Wild Archaeology returns Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.


Mohawk Girls — On:a

Last week’s episode of Mohawk Girls closed with everyone facing a critical decision that would affect their personal happiness. Would Caitlin choose Butterhead or Leon? Would Bailey choose to remain with James–a white man–or choose her responsibility to family and culture? Would Zoe choose to her needs or her mother’s ideal for a Mohawk citizen? And finally, would Anna, at long last, choose to accept herself and by doing so find her home in Kahnawa:ke?

This week the cold open featuring Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) and James (Jeffrey Wetsch) nicely summarized all of Bailey’s fears as this young couple contemplated what their future could mean together. After lists and careful reflection, Bailey chose both James and Kahnawa:ke. To celebrate, she hosted a pool party to welcome James. Anyone who supported her decision was invited to attend; a test run of sorts. Initially, it looked as though no one was going to attend and then once they did, no one was interacting. In the end, James broke the ice and challenged everyone to a cannonball contest. Nothing beats a good competition, and bridges between families and communities were forged.

Meanwhile, with Ohserase’s (Shawn Youngchief) support, Zoe (Brittany LeBorgne) was finally, at long last putting her own needs first instead of quashing them until they manifested in unhealthy ways. She was simply unwilling to sacrifice her dance class to participate in an end-of-season garbage clean up. She chose herself first over her community. Recognizing that she needed a clean slate, Zoe decided to remove herself from her family and Kahnawa:ke entirely. She and Ohserase went apartment hunting and found her fresh start; Zoe is moving off rez and into Montreal.

Anna ( Maika Harper) took a stand and chose self-respect over Midas’ two-blowjobs-a-day requirements, and Midas showed her the door. Anna’s cousin quickly stepped up to serve his needs. Later at the bar, Anna also took a stand against Iostha (Ally Pratt), and publicly declared that she is white and Mohawk and is “damn proud of who I am!” Did anyone else catch that look of envy by Iostha? The ONLY complaint I have about this episode was the Iostha storyline. While I understand the desire to tie up all of the loose ends, I didn’t think it was necessary for Iostha to also have an epiphany and suddenly put her nastiness aside. Cue the Happy-Happy. It just felt too rushed. At any rate, with her declaration, and self-acceptance, Anna finally feels as though she belongs in Kahnawa:ke. Hat Girl is BACK!

And finally, the most satisfying conclusion for the series! Caitlin (Heather White) finally put it all together. After unleashing a long stream of consciousness on poor Watio (Jimmy Blais), Caitlin realised she was looking for validation through men instead of loving herself. Watio queried, “So what are you going to do about that?” Let’s just say that when Caitlin makes up her mind, she really makes up her mind. First, she broke up with Leon (Dwain Murphy), and then we got to savour that moment we have all been waiting for since Season 1. Caitlin said goodbye to Blockheaded Butterhead (Meegwun Fairbrother) for good!

If you recall back when the series returned for Season 5, I felt Mohawk Girls had come full circle; back to the beginning of Season 1. While this final episode “Warriors” served to complete the series, I think it also satisfied many issues raised back in Season 1, Episode 4, “Where’s My Warrior?”

“Where’s My Warrior?” focused on the choice between the search for the warrior who would always have your back rather than just settling for a guy. Butterhead had just betrayed Caitlin when he drunkenly treated Lollipop to the butter treatment, so Caitlin returned to Stoney where her father (Lawrence Bayne) promptly let her down as well. Bailey was dating Jack, another white man, who ultimately let her down because he could not handle the drama. Zoe was just beginning to travel down the path of sexual addiction. Her need to rebel against the pressures her mother placed upon her were proving too difficult to cope and her father never stood up for her. And Anna had just embarked on her path of discovery, relying on Thunder for the cultural knowledge and community status that her deceased father could not provide, in order to help her establish her position in Kahnawa:ke. All of our protagonists were looking outward to locate themselves and find their self-worth.

Now we have come full circle. Instead of looking elsewhere for strength like we saw in Season 1, this season all of our leading ladies found that strength in themselves. In the end we saw Bailey, but with confidence in herself, and with the support of her family and her community, facing a bright future with James. Caitlin chose to find her happiness and self-worth inside herself rather than relying on the men in her life. Zoe chose to separate herself from her dysfunctional family and from the demands of Kahnawa:ke as she focuses on her next stage of healing. And Anna finally chose to accept both sides of herself, the white and the Mohawk, just as her parents had done by choosing each other, and through that self-acceptance found her position in Kahnewa:ke. So, tonight also answered the question posed in Season 1 “Where’s My Warrior?” Your “Warrior” is you.

My sincere thanks go out to co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight, and the cast and crew of Mohawk Girls for a truly insightful but hilariously fun look at life in Kahnawa:ke and life as a modern Indigenous woman in Canada today. Nia:wen for sharing your home with us, teaching us and doing so with laughter.


How do you feel about Mohawk Girls coming to an end? Let me know in the comments below!


Mohawk Girls: The choice is yours

Caitlin, Zoe and Bailey from Season 1, Episode 1, “Welcome to Our World”.

When we first began, we met Bailey, Caitlin and Zoe, three longtime girlfriends who were coping with the mundanity of life, looking to meet Mr. Right. Then, along came this misfit Anna who just wanted to fit and make some new friends. Now here we are; the penultimate episode of Mohawk Girls. And, we are down to some serious, potentially life-altering CHOICES! Do they each choose this or that? Are you “In or Out?” Episode 5 laid these decisions out for our Mohawk Girls and for viewers.

Caitlin (Heather White) was trying every sexy trick she possessed to earn her way back into Butterhead’s (Meegwun Fairbrother) good graces. Foot massage, home cooked meal, and cancelling her salon renovations. She vowed to always put Butterhead’s needs before her own. She even gave up an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser in order to cheer on Butterhead in his weekend lacrosse match. Then the day of the fundraiser arrived and Butterhead was too hung over to play in his match. Caitlin was left disappointed in him, but most of all herself, for once again putting a man before her own wants and needs.

Now, if you recall from Episode 4, Ohserase (Shawn Youngchief) came to Zoe’s (Brittany LeBorgne) defence in the coffee shop and the Twitterverse began to wonder if there was life for #Zohserase. This week Zoe came clean and revealed to Ohserase why she dated him: to get her parents off her back. Can I just say, every woman needs an Ohserase in her life! Dude is the perfect boyfriend! At any rate, he was impressed with Zoe’s honesty and bravery! He even attended her jazz class and OH YES! It is safe to say that #ZOHSERASE lives!

No doubt boosted by  Ohserase’s forgiveness and support, Zoe finally mustered up the courage to visit her parents (played by Tantoo Cardinal and Erland Campbell), which predictably, went terribly wrong!

Last week, I was not certain that Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) recognized where the photo of James (Jeffrey Wetsch) and her was taken. This week we learned pretty quickly that indeed, she did know that the photo came from Anna (Maika Harper), and the two come to blows, literally. “This place has turned you into an animal!” But theirs were not the only tempers to fly. Sose (Glen Gould) stopped in to check on Bailey and found her packing to leave Kahnwa:ke. “Your great great great grandchildren will grow up to be those awful white people who say they might have some Indian blood in them. How can  you deny you and your future children their heritage?”

Feeling pressure from her father’s attack, Bailey unloaded on James, listing everything that she must give up in order to be in a relationship with him. However, later, at the same fundraiser that Caitlin had turned down, Bailey presented a cheque in absentia for Auntie Velma. Other benefactors also in attendance came to Bailey’s side, all supporting her decision to be with James, and all disgusted by the behaviours of the Marry Out Get Out movement.

And finally, our misfit Anna, who in the wake of her vicious fight with Bailey, returned to her cultural lessons drunk. Anna was at her breaking point, feeling trapped into the party life she’s fallen into as a means to stay connected to the memory of her father. The instructor of the class reached out to Anna with a bit of cultural perspective. Buoyed by that knowledge she began to recognize the hypocrisy and deep seeded anger within Iostha (Ally Pratt) as they reviewed the quality of the prizes at the fundraiser.

Alright, everyone, this is it. Co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight have led us to this point. All of our ladies must each make a choice that could mean sacrificing their personal happiness. Will Caitlin choose Butterhead, or Leon or herself? Will Bailey choose to remain with James or choose her responsibility to culture? And, like Bailey, will  Zoe choose herself or her mother’s Mohawk vision for herself? And lastly,  will Anna finally, at long last, find her place in Kahnawa:ke?

How do you think the series will end? Let me know in the comments below!

The series finale of Mohawk Girls airs Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 8:30 p.m. on APTN.



Mohawk Girls: Ain’t it a Shame?

Last week on Mohawk Girls, we were left with Zoe (Brittany LeBorgne) falling off the wagon and into bed with Phillip (Max E. Williams), Caitlin (Heather White) running to Leon (Dwain Murphy) when Butterhead (Meegwun Fairbrother) ditched her for the lacrosse team, and Anna (Maika Harper) was snarled in a scheme with Iostha (Allyson Pratt) to oust Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) from Kahnawa:ke because she’s dating James (Jeffrey Wetsch). AND Anna was also second-guessing her decision to stay with Midas (Tanner Novlan). WHEW! That was a mouthful (pun intended)!

Sometimes when you watch an episode and it is finished you sit back and say “Wow!” My response to this week’s episode, “Shame Campaign,” was exactly that, as it tackled the effects of shame on so many levels. This time co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight have really outdone themselves. We still have all of the comedic elements that Mohawk Girls is known for, but this episode touched on several heavier topics, including verbal abuse, addiction recovery and the violence associated with the “Marry Out Get Out” movement. Of all the episodes since the series began five seasons ago, I feel this one counts as one of the best for scripting, timing, character reactions and interactions.

We open with Bailey taking James to the coffee shop where they immediately ran into her ex-fiancée Watio (Jimmy Blais) who was quick to accuse Bailey of being a race traitor. The entire shop backed Watio’s argument and Bailey and James left, but not before her father Sose (Glen Gould) witnessed the town’s anger and Bailey’s discomfort. The town’s rage continued to grow, the flyer campaign of Anna’s and Iostha’s doing took hold and by the episode’s end, Bailey’s car and home were left vandalized.

Meanwhile, Zoe immediately regretted her tumble with Phillip and she self-prescribed a dose of self-flagellation—”Weak, pathetic, a loser.” Apparently “Perfect Zoe” is still not allowed to make mistakes. But, some growth was evident when she was later confronted by town members at the coffee shop. They delivered an ultimatum: denounce Bailey as a race traitor. But Zoe refused and instead came to Bailey’s defense: “We should value happiness, and we should all have as much joy in our lives as possible.” And then who came to Zoe’s defense? Ohserase (Shawn Youngchief)!!! “She’s right. And, then maybe we’d stop trying to tear everyone down.”

In the meantime, Caitlin made the commitment to open her own salon, and she hired Watio to do the renovations. During their negotiation, Watio revealed that he’s inspired by Caitlin’s new found confidence. But not everyone was pleased.  Butterhead was not liking Caitlin’s metamorphosis. He’s “tired of playing second fiddle to Caitlin’s career,” and was definitely not liking the “no sex until I am finished working,” stand of Caitlin’s. Guess that self-love stuff is working because Caitlin’s confidence is growing! This arc delved to a darker level of overt verbal and very public abuse from Butterhead and we were witness to the effects his insulting comments had upon Caitlin’s confidence. “Proud of my new and unimproved shitty girlfriend who’s not there when I want her. And who is no longer fun and into partying because she is obsessed with her stupid salon. What the hell is there to be proud of?” Bravo to both Heather White and Meegwun Fairbrother for committing themselves to this scene.

And finally, we get to Anna. Up until now, Anna has been battling to locate herself in Kahnawa:ke. Now she is battling herself as she faces a critical choice in her journey. Will she embrace the angry and vindictive party girl that Iostha has been modelling for her, that negative stereotypical false concept of what a Mohawk should be? Or will she embrace the more culturally aware and authentic Mohawk traits? As a part of her Mohawk culture course, Anna was assigned to build a sweat lodge. In an attempt to force Anna and Bailey to mend their ways, Zoe invited Bailey along. Bumpy start is putting it mildly, but the three finally managed, and using traditional land-based education to understand their Mohawk culture and heritage, they realized success, healing and even the possibility of a liberal arts degree in the future for Bailey.

There are just two episodes left! How is Caitlin going to react to Butterhead’s escalating abusive behaviours? Will she run back to Leon’s arms for good? Now that Zoe has faced down the town, will she be able to face her parents? Will Bailey cave to the pressures of the “Marry Out Get Out” movement and break up with James? Will Bailey discover that Anna is behind the smear campaign? What is in store for the Mohawk Girls in the last two episodes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Mohawk Girls airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on APTN.


Mohawk Girls: White but A’right, or is it?

As the title suggests, whiteness as it affects appearance, and the political ramifications of acceptance of those who appear too white, are the threads that are woven into Episode three of Mohawk Girls. I know that sounds pretty heavy, but we need not fear when left to the storytelling skills of co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight. We were still treated to a heavy dose of humour!

We begin with a fully conformed Anna (Maika Harper) along with hater Iostha (Allyson Pratt) plotting against Bailey; the one who gets to go against the unwritten rules of dating AND finds happiness. The hardliner “Marry Out Get Outs” in town are definitely upset that Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) is dating James (Jeffrey Wetsch) and Iostha feels it is up to her and Anna to do something about it. After awkwardly collecting Bailey’s recycling–WHAT was the point of that scene with Bailey?–Anna and Iostha combed through Bailey’s garbage looking for proof that James has moved in. When that scheme failed, they turned to a smear poster campaign with the help of Anna’s personal photos of Bailey and James.

Meanwhile, James  was having trouble fitting in in Kahnawa:ke. His presence at Bailey’s even drew the suspicions of the local police. Bailey tried to ease James into the fold and hosted a games night in order to properly introduce him, but tensions still ran high. James could do no right, Zoe (Brittany Leborgne) started to slip into her controlling ways and Midas (Tanner Novlan), ever the total jerk–dude is worse than Butterhead–was just there for the expensive scotch and an extra blowjob. Bailey, hypersensitive to the situation, had unwittingly made James feel she was ashamed of him. A quick grounding over a homemade Italian dinner for two and these two lovebirds were back on track.

Caitlin’s (Heather White) own progress in self-love hit a few bumps. A date with herself fell flat, But clearly, some of what she has been reading has sunk in. Time was up for Caitlin and she was faced with a difficult decision: go back to her old job at the salon or start her own salon. She asked for Butterhead’s (Meegwun Fairbrother) input, but he had more important things to do. Cue the epiphany moment! Caitlin’s needs have never registered with Butterhead, and she finally, at long last realized that! Once again she turned to Leon (Dwain Murphy) for support and guidance.

And finally, we come to Zoe. Zoe was still plugging her way through recovery exercises. In the early moments of this episode, one of her self-love exercises asked to compose a love song about a part of yourself that you have always hated. And Zoe,  with the encouragement of her mother, has always hated that her skin is so pale and her hair blonde. This was what drove Zoe to dye her hair back in season four when she was seeking the title of Chief in the local elections.

Zoe: I was born with blonde hair and that’s ok,

I should be happy I was made that way.

But it’s much better that my hair is brown,

Because it was ugly and pale and the talk of the town.

SO I’m never goin’ back to blonde,

‘Cus I friggin’ HATE IT!

Tell us how you really feel Zoe! But, thankfully, that sequence led to Zoe dying her hair back to her natural blonde and she recognized that she is finally comfortable with who she is! (And OMG I have sobbed each and every time I have watched this scene!)

But now that the floodgates have opened for Zoe … can we just say, “Plastic knives are the new sexy!!” Hands down, Brittany LeBorgne delivered the two best scenes this week: a tearjerker AND a laugh out loud funny! #Beast!

So where are we now? Bailey and James seem on track, Caitlin is starting to realize she is just settling with Butterhead, Zoe has clearly fallen off the wagon along with Phillip (Max E. Williams) and Anna has now slipped so far down that she has betrayed a friend in order to fit in.

What do you think is next for Kahnawa:ke’s finest? Let me know in the comments below!

Mohawk Girls airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on APTN.