“I’m ready to shake the cage”: Cody Coyote on the new Passage album and his calls to action – Apartment613
Cody Coyote is a well-known Indigenous artist in Ottawa, both for his music and his activism. While the two have always been combined for the Ojibwe artist originally from Matachewan First Nation, his new album Passage, out now, is his most explicit fusion of the two to date. The excellent album comes with a powerful message and a set of calls to action.
Passage is a heavyweight album that doesn’t shy away from addressing abuses in residential schools, inspired in part by its own family stories. The album is about residential schools, intergenerational trauma, Cody’s own experiences and his efforts to support Indigenous people.
The album opens with a track called “Helpless”, which evokes his feelings about the immensity of the genocide and abuses committed against indigenous peoples.
“The harm that priests and nuns have done to several members of my family is something I still deal with, and I speak as much as I feel comfortable,” Cody says. “With Passageit’s an album with meaningful and powerful content, but it’s really a call to action for people to step up, stop being silent and use their voice.
“When people come together, that’s when you see real change,” he adds. “There is power when we come together.”
Cody grew up in Ottawa – his father was part of the Sixties Scoop. Although he now has a stronger connection to the Matachewan First Nation, he didn’t make contact until he was 25 years old. Since then, he has learned about the difficulties his family has faced, but also about his own story. He learns that his quadruple great-grandfather, Chief Michel Batise, is a signatory of Treaty 9.
Cody attended a Catholic school and used to get in trouble for skipping church. He looked closely at this month’s papal apology but found parts of it missing. Although long awaited by many indigenous peoples, Cody wants to insist that the apology took place thanks to the efforts of the indigenous delegation that visited the Vatican in March.
Regarding the controversial Doctrine of Discovery — a 15th-century European legal framework that proclaimed that all “discovered” land belonged to Christian Europeans who claimed it — Cody says the pope was silent. Cody references the doctrine in his song “Keep the Peace”.
“[Pope Francis] didn’t even recognize him,” he said. “It took Sarain Fox and Chelsea Brunelle drawing attention to this…they held up a sign that said ‘Repeal the Doctrine’ and it sparked a global conversation.”
“We have known the doctrine since the day we were born…and we still live by it. This has been the moral justification in the eyes of the church to maintain ‘ownership’ of our sovereign lands,” Cody says.
Although the album, to quote Cody, “gets to the heart of the matter”, the album contains bright and danceable moments, to reflect the resilience of indigenous people.
“We’re still very present, so to end with these dance tracks is about my people, we’re still going up, we’re still revitalizing who we are… like ‘Ogimaa’, making a remix bigger and better than the original song , I felt there had to be more; let’s make it more danceable, let’s make it more fun.
Passage is just the beginning—Cody has big plans for the album. He is currently working on a music video for “Dirty”, featuring Pj Vegas and Pooky G. And he has a social justice component on the album. He recently joined Going MILES, an all-Indigenous team that combines entertainment, including music, with youth-focused workshops. And the social media reception of his calls to action has been good.
“A lot of people focus on the healing story, but listening to people like Cindy Blackstock, she understood: we need to talk about the justice story. We’ve been doing this healing work for generations, and part of the youth work is doing this healing work,” Cody says. He is a part-time educator himself, helping where he can and sharing his music.
“You do a small act of kindness, you’ve already made an impact.”
Keep up to date by following Cody Coyote on Instagram and shop the new album here.