RUBABOO: A Métis Cabaret © Dahlia Katz; World Premiere Production at the Grand Theatre Set Design by Cimmeron Meyer; Costume Design by Samantha McCue; Lighting Design by Kimberly Purtell
By Raye Mocioiu
Métis actress, playwright, and award-winning musician Andrea Menard says her job is to make people feel—and she takes it very seriously.
“As a mixed-blood person, I spent a lot of time in my younger days tackling identity and what it meant to be Métis,” the artist explained. “Nowadays, I spend my time helping others understand the Métis experience. I don’t shame my audiences, and I’m not out to punish anyone who doesn’t know Canada’s history. I share knowledge by allowing my vulnerability to be seen. The pain of historical trauma becomes accessible to an audience through me because I have done the work. My hope is others will be inspired to do the same.”
As Menard shares on her blog, if you are a human living in this world today, you have most likely experienced some form of trauma. Menard says it’s what you do with this trauma that matters. Artists and creatives worldwide, including Menard, share that the process of creating art is a method of healing. In many ways, art and storytelling play a critical role in promoting empathy, understanding, and social change.
“People have been oversaturated with violence and acclimatized to such horror that only direct experience or powerful feelings can get through,” said Menard. “We’ve all read the statistics and seen the stories, but hearing that one in three women have experienced sexual violence, or that Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be murdered, or that 75 per cent of Indigenous languages are in danger of extinction, doesn’t seem to change the minds and hearts of the wider population.
“That is where music and storytelling come in. Songs and stories surpass the logical brain and ignite an empathic response because the listener experiences them as though it’s happening to them. When we invite others into our world and frame of reference, we build compassion. We feel inspired to connect.”
In 2012, a Gathering of Elders took place at the Turtle Lodge on Saugeen First Nation. Among the profound discussions held during this gathering, the late Elder Dave Courchene delivered a powerful collective statement from the Elders, shedding light on the world through an Indigenous lens: Mother Earth, women, children, two-spirit, water, emotions, and all the qualities of the Feminine must be held in esteem once again.
For far too long, they said, the qualities associated with the Feminine have been disregarded, belittled, and even vilified within societies heavily influenced by masculine-dominated systems—a way of living that simply cannot persist.
In contrast, Sacred Masculine traits that emphasize action, ambition, conquest, logic, and order are often revered in Western culture, further suppressing the Sacred Feminine traits that prioritize nurturing, creativity, intuition, and emotion.
“All women and land-based cultures know this,” Menard said. “All beings who have been rejected by the wider culture know this. When I heard the Elders speak, it was like a thousand little pathways converged into one, and I knew that I was a part of this movement. I had been doing it for years, I just didn’t know it.”
Menard explained that voices previously silenced by the systems are now emerging with a Feminine perspective. Their voices call for a transformative shift, with rallying cries for equality, racial justice, self-care, mental health, land and water protection, and land-based practices.
“Many traumatized people are struggling to know how to come into balance, to right the wrongs of the past, and to handle the emotions threatening to drown them,” she continued. “So I decided to step up and help all the genders learn to embrace their Sacred Feminine nature.”
“After years of being asked which discipline I liked most—acting, singing, speaking, or writing, I started calling myself a Métis medicine wheel,” said Menard. “I like all of them equally, but the moment I realized that the centre of my wheel was facilitating the rise of the Sacred Feminine, everything changed. I created a space to share this knowledge.”
She created a deck of cards called the Seeds from the Sacred Feminine, a 52-card wisdom deck that contains gentle, land-based teachings and easy-to-use spreads, with beautiful images by Métis painter Leah Dorion.
Menard explained that the deck is a tool for bringing the knowledge of the Sacred Feminine and Indigenous ways of knowing to the broader culture. What better way to invite users to engage with their intuition than by having them pull their own wisdom cards?
“It took five years to bring them to fruition, but they were the first idea,” she continued. “Then came blogs, audio programs, and training courses like Matriarchs in Training, Reclaiming the Four Goddesses, and Lead Like a Goddess.”
Beyond sparking intuition inside oneself, the cards also make an outward impact by supporting the Clan Mothers Healing Village, an organization led by Indigenous Grandmothers and Clan Mothers, whom Menard describes as ‘the quintessential Feminine voices of our time.’
“Women are exhausted and feeling hopeless because they have had to be desirable, be submissive, and morph themselves to match the expectations of the colonial system,” explained Menard. “The exhaustion we feel is beginning to catch up to us. As we start to speak up, demand predators be brought to justice, heal our ancestral lineages, and better ourselves with collective sharing, we will watch the systems fall apart around us. The Elders say this is the time of Woman for a reason.”
Through ceremonies, gatherings, leadership programs, and Indigenous ways of knowing, the Clan Mothers Healing Village provides long-term care to victims of sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.
“They are reclaiming their matrilineal governance, focusing on the marginalized women, girls, two-spirit, transgender members of our community, and dreaming an actual healing village into being,” Menard continued. “And they are doing it by keeping healing, safety, and ceremony at the centre of their vision—a true embodiment of the Sacred Feminine.”
When it comes to healing herself, Menard turns to creative pursuits. A 15-time music award winner, Menard has released five award-winning albums, including her latest Michif language album, “Anskoonamakew lii Shansoon,” or “The Giveaway Album.” She has performed for royalty, prime ministers, Residential School survivors, and families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, even singing her song “Peace” to the world’s NATO generals.
As the beloved Auntie Edna on the new hit CTV/CW series Sullivan’s Crossing and through her latest hit theatrical show, Rubaboo, the five-time Gemini-nominated actress has found love and community through representing her people on-screen and off.
Rubaboo, Menard explained, is a Métis Cabaret and came at a time when she was considering retiring from performing. It consists of three highly theatrical worlds: the singer’s world, where Menard does not shy away from being a band on stage; the spirit world, where she shares a version of the Creation story; and the ceremonial world, where she makes a metaphorical ‘rubaboo,’—which means soup or stew in the Michif language.
“In these three worlds, I tell stories, I sing songs, and I create a sacred space,” she shared. “I talk about all the beauty of my people as well as the trauma that we experienced, and I do it all with love.
“After seeing a show or hearing a song that reveals a truth about our collective history, it can never be ‘unseen,’ and that means one can’t fall back on the excuse of ignorance ever again,” Menard continued. “Reconciliation will only occur in this country when the non-Indigenous community, one person or organization at a time, decides to perform acts of reconciliation. Real change happens when a community cares about the well-being of its citizens.”
Through a blend of song, dance, storytelling, and live music, Rubaboo is a vessel for sharing her love of her people and her culture—but more importantly, it’s a way for Menard to focus on what matters most: giving people the space to heal.
“These days, I care about being of service and bringing healing to our communities, both Indigenous and the wider culture,” Menard concluded. “Whether that is promoting reconciliation and rematriation, ending violence towards women and girls, or raising awareness about colonization practices that attempt to destroy Indigenous ways of being, I have made a vow to leave this planet a little more uplifted than when I arrived.”