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By Wendy Wei Photography.

“I’m ready to rattle the cage:” Cody Coyote on new album Passage and its calls to action

By Ryan Pepper on August 9, 2022

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Cody Coyote is a well-known Indigenous artist in Ottawa, both through his music and his activism. While the two have always been combined for the Ojibwe artist with roots in Matachewan First Nation, his new album Passage, out now, is his most explicit meld of the two so far. The excellent album comes with a powerful message and a set of calls to action.

Passage is a heavy album that doesn’t shy away from addressing the abuses committed in residential schools, inspired in part by his own family stories. The album speaks to residential schools, intergenerational trauma, Cody’s own experiences, and his efforts supporting Indigenous people.

The album opens with a track called “Helpless,” which addresses his feelings about the immensity of the genocide and abuses committed against Indigenous people.

“The harm the priests and nuns have done to several of my family members, it’s something that I’m still processing, and I’m speaking up as much as I feel comfortable to,” says Cody. “With Passage, it’s an album with some meaningful and powerful content, but it’s really a call to action for people to mobilize, to stop being quiet and use their voice.”

“When people come together, that’s when you see some concrete change,” he adds. “There’s power when we come together.”

Cody grew up in Ottawa—his father was part of the Sixties Scoop. Though he has a stronger connection to Matachewan First Nation now, he didn’t make contact until he was 25. Since then, he’s learned about the difficulties that his family has faced, but also about his own history. He learned that his four-times great-grandfather, Chief Michel Batise, was a signatory of Treaty No. 9.

The social media campaign features an ‘X’ symbolizing the ‘X’ used as a signature on treaty documents. Photo provided.

Cody attended a Catholic school and used to get in trouble for skipping church. He watched this month’s papal apology closely but found parts of it lacking. Though long-awaited by many Indigenous people, Cody wants to push home the fact that the apology happened because of the efforts of the Indigenous delegation that visited the Vatican in March.

When it comes to the controversial Doctrine of Discovery—a European legal framework from the 15th century that proclaimed that all “discovered” lands belonged to the Christian Europeans who claimed them—Cody says the Pope was silent. Cody references the doctrine in his song “Keep the Peace.”

“[Pope Francis] didn’t even acknowledge it,” he says. “It took Sarain Fox and Chelsea Brunelle to bring attention to that… they held up a sign that said “Rescind the Doctrine” and it sparked a global conversation.”

“We’ve known about the doctrine since the day we were born… and we’re still living under it. That’s been the moral justification in the eyes of the church to uphold ‘ownership’ over our sovereign lands,” Cody says.

By Wendy Wei Photography.

Although the album, to quote Cody, “goes into the thick of it,” the album has bright, danceable moments, to reflect the resiliency of Indigenous people.

“We’re still very much here, so closing off with those dance tracks is talking about my people, we’re still coming up, we’re still revitalizing who we are… like ‘Ogimaa,’ doing a remix bigger and better than the original song, I felt there had to be more to it; let’s make it dancier, let’s make this more fun.”

Passage is just the beginning—Cody’s got big plans for the album. He’s currently working on a music video for “Dirty,” featuring Pj Vegas and Pooky G. And he has a social justice component to the album. He recently joined up with Going M.I.L.E.S., an all-Indigenous team who combine entertainment, including music, with youth-centered workshops. And the social media reception to his calls to action has been good.

“A lot of people are focusing on the healing narrative, but listening to folks like Cindy Blackstock, she nailed it: We need to be talking about the justice narrative. We’ve been doing that healing work for generations, and part of the youth work is doing that healing work,” Cody says. He’s a part-time youth worker himself, helping out where he can and sharing his music.

“You do one small act of kindness, you’ve already made an impact.”

Cody Coyote’s Calls to Action.

 


Keep updated by following Cody Coyote on Instagram and purchase the new album here.

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