Cody Coyote: Music and the journey

The Red Road - March 18, 2019 

Today I am left with much reflection and have found myself reminiscing through past events. While most people are waking up with a hangover and alcohol in their system from the night before, I am waking up sober. I do not have the taste of alcohol in my mouth or the smell of it on my breath and I do not have a headache or the urge to lay in bed any longer. One thing that stands out to me is that rather than neglecting to open the curtain to let the sun through, I have found myself witnessing the beauty of it as I have opened the curtain this morning and it's shine has graced my living room.

A new day awaits me, different from yesterday, the day before and the ones further beyond that. What will today be like for me? And how will it progress to tomorrow? Many thoughts surround that because today is an anniversary day for me. The day that I took ownership of my life and began to make better decisions for myself. To walk the red road and to live a better life. 

Seven years ago today I made a commitment to myself that I didn't want alcohol, steroids or drugs in my life anymore. Throughout those seven years many challenges have come, many people have exited my life and much has changed. I no longer have the want to be around a party environment, nor the urge to meet up with a site van to receive needles. I make it clear to others that it is not for me and if they disrespect that then I defend myself. False friendships have been removed, stronger bonds with my family have been made and today I make healthy choices for myself and give thanks for this gift of life. 

Having a healthier relationship with myself and my family is something that I thank Gitchie Manidoo (The Creator) for. They have been my strongest support system throughout this journey and have been there throughout it all. From the nights of mischief, acts of crime and violence, to the mornings of not remembering and trying to puzzle it all back together, they have been there. Most importantly was the morning after hitting rock bottom with my suicide attempt and the day I said that enough is enough and began to walk the road of sobriety. 

Friends come and go but family always stayed for me, which is a blessing considering all of the things I did when I was drinking and using. I always heard my dad tell us stories of his experiences and yet I still went to figure it all out for myself. Often a night of drinking would result in events that were quite traumatic for me to witness due to the actions made by the individuals I surrounded myself with and the pressure to be included in those actions. From violence behind closed doors to the violence in city streets, to the drug dealing and drinking during late nights spent in trap houses, I found myself thinking that I didn't want this anymore. Driving under the influence became a regular thing too which was not smart at all and certainly wasn't safe for myself or other people. Eventually I came to the realization that this lifestyle was going to validate what teachers had told me in high school, that I was going to either end up "dead or in jail".

When I had been using steroids it was initially to become more attractive due to being called ugly, not good enough and having people make fun of my body image which lead to insecurities. It hurt when guys did it to me but when women would, it stung and made me feel inferior. I remember drinking while using steroids and I was very emotional, aggressive and always ready to fight, which is something that the dealer neglects to tell you will happen when they sell you them. Changes in my body also occurred, including acne on my chest which had left scarring that will be with me for the rest of my life. 

After seven years I reflect on how many people were hurt, how much chaos was in my life and how finding balance has lead me to making amends with both myself and those that I was destructive towards. Not knowing who my blood relatives were for 25 years due to my father being adopted in the 60's, being bullied in high school for being Indigenous and being lost in this world which lead to being involved with gang life played a big part in the trauma that I carried. The reality is that even though I am sober, I still cross paths with people I have hurt and have had to make amends. Taking ownership of my actions and knowing when to apologize is a part of the healing process. Some of the amends made are due to actions that happened when I was sober and learning how to cope with emotions that weren't present before. Making amends with myself was important too and I often remind myself that when the going gets tough, to be gentle with myself. 
 
Finding and learning my culture throughout these years has helped me throughout my journey and going to sweat lodge has helped as well. Being able to learn my language more and gain cultural knowledge and teachings has gone a long way. I've been able to pass it on to my family members and we have shared it together. This was something that we did not have growing up but being able to have it now is important to me and is something I give thanks for everyday.

The teachings I received from my parents played an important part in who I am today as well and I choose to share them with others when able to. My mom was renowned for bringing people together and offering kindness to others but if you crossed her then you would know that you made a big mistake. She taught me to offer kindness and to have a kind heart. My mom also taught me to not take crap from anybody and to stand up for what is right too. My father also taught me to be kind to others and showed me what it meant to be a kind man through how he treated my mom. He prepared me for this walk of life and the challenges that it would carry for me but was also there to lift me up when I lost myself. Paying it forward has become something that I do often now and my father taught me a valuable teaching that comes with that, which is that service is gratitude in action.

With my mom passing away in August of last year and her birthday coming up next weekend I have had a lot to think about lately, in particular today. She was always there to give me hugs when I needed them and to listen throughout my hardships. Now that I am living my dream, she had always been there to support me throughout the process of being able to and was so proud of everything that I am doing. Hearing that she was proud of me affected me in many ways and often brought me to tears because of everything I have been through in my past and how she knew more than anyone. I know that my mom would also be very proud of me today for making it to seven years of sobriety and while carrying that close to my heart I will continue to live a healthy lifestyle.  

While most people choose to drink alcohol and it has become a social norm, I acknowledge that I have no need for it in my life. This is both for personal reasons but also on a bigger spectrum. Hearing when people try to portray the "Drunken Indian" stereotype, I remind them that there are sober Indigenous people in this world. I've taken a strong stance against something that had been used to weaken our people and providing help to those that are still battling it as well as their own traumas.

Working on my craft and developing my writing skills more has been my outlet throughout all of this as well. Having released my first full length album "Mamawi" on November 1, 2017 and now almost completing my second full length album set to be released in summer 2019, my life is where I want it to be. Music has been one of my three keep safes, the two others being walks outside and exercising at the gym. These practices have helped me continue to keep going and I found have others along the way. 

My experiences have given me perspective and have allowed me to become the man I am today. They have allowed me to speak and provide help to various people in various spaces across Canada and to the United States. My sobriety has allowed me to live my dream and to find my voice, my passion, my emotions and overall my true self. As of last year I had received my first regalia and this year in honour of 7 years on this red road and in honour of my mother, I plan to begin my journey as a men's fancy dancer. 


Seven years ago today, I made the best decision I could make for myself. To live mino bimaadiziwin, to live the good life.

International Women's Day - March 8, 2019 

The other day a friend of our family tagged me on social media in this video she took from June 23, 2018 when my friends and I performed at APTN's Indigenous Day Live pre-show. The beautiful woman in the bottom right corner with that amazing energy rocking back and forth is my momma bear. I'm grateful to have been raised by such a strong, kind, loving and caring woman who instilled those very traits in me. As I've replayed this video time and time again, I think of how proud she was of me and how just the other day my dad and I spoke about how even when she was in her last moments on a hospital bed, she was still promoting me to the nurses. 

With today being International Women's Day, I feel it is an important reminder to celebrate the women in our lives and to continue to honour them each day. Everyday I will give thanks and will honour my mother for giving me this precious gift of life. I will do the same for the strong and caring women who are in my circle. The same applies for the one who has been there for me throughout this tough time, who has been supportive towards me, who has continuously offered me love and who I am lucky enough to share a relationship with. 

Today, I ask the men reading this that you offer your gratitude to the women in your life. Whether it may be a sibling, a friend, a co-worker, a partner, a family member or your mother. Everyday they are to be honoured and respected. Show them that you honour and respect them, that you will listen, that you won't talk over them, that you will be present when needed and will give space as well, that you will respect their boundaries, that you care, that you will be an ally, that you are in no way, shape or form superior to them and that you will challenge any form of misogyny. 

Today, I also wanted to ask everyone if you are able to...that you hug your mother and hold them close to you. If they're a distance away, then call them. If they are in the spirit world, pray to them. Tell them that you love them, tell them that you care, tell them that your sorry, tell them that you forgive them and ask for forgiveness as well, tell them thank you for giving you life and tell them what they mean to you. 

Gi zah gin Ni Mama, I love you Mom, forever and always ❤️. 

Cody Coyote

Moment by Moment 

Through these moments that I sit still, my mind races, my body’s numb and emotions slowly begin to process. From the moment I woke up today to the moment I went to my bed to go to sleep, I’ve been thinking about her. Glancing at the picture of her on my wall brought forth sadness. As that tight feeling in my chest entered my body again, I find myself in a moment where I’m short of breath and trying to pace myself through it.

I told myself that I’d try to start going to bed earlier each night as a form of self care but often that wouldn’t be the case. As I try to ground myself, I feel that tight feeling again and I weep for her. Holding my stomach as if I was latching onto the memories of how it felt to receive hugs from her, knowing that when nobody else cared, she did.  

Feelings of loneliness enter my mind but are challenged by the fact that I hear the television on downstairs which reminds me that there are four guys who are with me throughout this...My dad, my brothers and my uncle. Despite what other people say, nobody else will know how I truly feel. The feeling of having a mother leave this journey and begin her journey in the spirit world far too young is one that can not be described. 

I try not to be angry at people when they offer their advice about the situation I’m in because I know they do it with good intentions so I remain silent and accept it. Part of me doesn't want to be silent, it wants to scream at the top of my lungs just to get it out as a release and to feel something. Doing whatever to try and calm myself, I took a shower and prepared myself for bed. I found that texting my girlfriend helped and she calmed me for the time being.  

As I write this out, I’m laying in the dark and typing this on my phone. It helps to process my thoughts. I’m currently calm and carry hopes that I will be able to have enough sleep for my radio show in the morning. The current time is 11:13 PM and I’ll need to wake up at 5:00 AM in order to make it to the station for my 6:00 AM show. 

Today is January 21, 2019. The show went okay, ran into some technical difficulties which were resolved but my anxiety was still present throughout it and after arriving at my home I went back to bed for some much needed rest and self care. The one thing people don’t know that happens behind the scenes as a public figure is that anxiety becomes a very real thing at times that can hit you like a ton of bricks depending on the circumstances. I’ve been learning to cope with it and I find that cooking, writing, going for walks and going to the gym helps a lot.  

As I write this I’m laying in my bed again after much reflection throughout the day. It’s been exactly five months now since my mother passed away and I can’t help but think of how much I miss her. Anger is also with me right now because I am angry at this enemy that I’ve made that has affected many that I love, including my beautiful mother...that enemy is cancer.  

Thoughts roam my mind on why certain foods, cigarettes and other things that are bad for us all, which can lead to cancer, are normalized in society. These thoughts are followed by why I need to be diligent with my health and what I consume. I am now reflecting on a new insecurity and fear that I have now. To protect myself and my family from this enemy I want to do as much research on cancer as possible and hope to help others who have been affected by it or who have had loved ones left behind after their passings but only if I could find the strength to.  

Trying to channel my emotions into something constructive has been difficult though but I’ve slowly been doing it and have found myself in a position where I’m almost done my second full length album which brings a feeling of only wishing that my mother could hear it. It’s helped for the time being but when people say that it’s “day by day” it really isn’t, everyone grieves differently and for some, it’s ever fragment of a second, taking things moment by moment, not knowing if you’ll be able to function or completely shut down.  

Whenever I performed, my mom would always be rocking away close to the stage and that’s one of the things I’m going to miss the most. I made a commitment to myself the night she passed. That commitment was for every performance I do, will be to celebrate her life and the life she has given me. Knowing that her spirit is still with me I find that I often will get small reminders which bring both sadness but calm me at times as well. 

What people need to understand is that silence, listening and just being there holds so much versus offering words of what they feel people need to hear during times like these. Unless they’ve lost a mother than they shouldn’t be offering their advice or two sense, but when they do I respectfully listen to what they have to say although at times it may upset me. The point to make is that if I wish to talk about it with them then I will, other than that it’s nobody else’s business. Writing this is to try and put this into perspective for people who don’t know this feeling and I hope that it will help with healing for those who are facing similar challenges. 

I talk to my mom regularly, every night in fact, and there isn’t a day that passes where I don’t think about her. These past two days have been very hard for me but I’m working through the motions of it and I’m grateful that pieces of her are still with me through my two younger brothers as well as her other half, my father.  

“Mamawi”, the title of my first full length album, has a stronger meaning for us as a family now and through that I know my mother is carried with us. Every time I see a “Mamawi” hat I think of how my mothers face lit up when I gifted her one while she was on her hospital bed. That memory is the last sincere smile I had from my mother and will forever be embedded in my heart. She was someone who was known for bringing people together and she continues to do just that. 

As I continue to write, it is now Monday, a start to a new week and I am sitting at home alone in my basement. Do I continue writing? Has enough been said? As the thought of silence revisits my mind, I accept it and acknowledge that as each moment passes I am learning to live without my mother in this physical world but will always carry her spirit with me. I now think about how the dishes need to be done then think of how the simplest task can become the biggest challenge some days. I've tried to add lyrics to some other songs I was working on as well but found myself with writers block. 

One thing that I'm accepting right now is that it's literally taking things moment by moment, forgetting the small things like gossip and the negative energy's that other people will dish out. For the people that wish to support and understand what I'm going through, I welcome them, but for those that don't then I wish them the best. All I know is that this is a beginning of a new journey, at the age of 26, where somedays I will be able to lift myself up and some days I will fall, some days I will be strong enough to lift my family up and for the days I am unable to they will be strong enough to life me up in return.

With the dawn of a new day I will continue to smile, to cry, to laugh, to weep, to dance and to sing in honour of her. Moment by moment, acknowledging that tomorrow isn't promised to anybody so I need to make today count, that's what she would want from me. 

The Secret and the Family Tree  

Constantly searching throughout this world, trying to find out where I’m from and who my blood relatives are. Finally after 25 years we’ve found them.

My father was born on February 21, 1960 in Hailebury, Ontario, Canada and was adopted from when he was four months old. Adopted by Keith Purcell, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Doreen Purcell, from England, United Kingdom. The Purcell’s adopted my father as well as my aunts and uncle. They had also fostered many kids throughout the years too.

Later on in my fathers life he met my beautiful mother who had given life to three boys, myself and my two younger brothers. Growing up we knew that my father was Ojibwe, his last name before adoption was Batisse and that he was from Matachewan First Nation, located in Northern Ontario about an hour outside of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. With proof from his birth certificate, myself and my younger brothers were able to receive status cards from a young age but as we grew older, curiosity and the yearning to know where our roots were from came along. 

Throughout high school I faced bullying for having long hair, I had been made fun of for being First Nations by older students and faced a lot of struggles surrounding my lack of cultural identity. Having little knowledge about my culture and what it meant to be Ojibwe was a common stress for me growing up but I remain grateful that my father taught me everything that he was able to. Despite the little knowledge that I carried, I found myself lost in a big world and found it very difficult to navigate through it. With these types of experiences, I also found myself in a world of violence, alcohol and drugs. 


From my early teens to the end of high school I was using drugs and alcohol as a coping method. Every neighbourhood has that older person who was able to get alcohol for someone and for me I was in regular contact with them. At this point in my life I wanted to numb what I was feeling and when it came to partying, I would often drink too much. At times I would consume alcohol on my own in my room, just so I could distract myself from the stresses I had been feeling and this eventually lead to drinking at school. It also didn’t help matters that the school I went to had been teaching a false history of what had happened in Canada.

Poetry, writing lyrics and music became my medicine during high school and it was my escape when I wasn’t feeding into my demons. It allowed me to be creative and to vent what I was carrying inside. Even to date it continues to be something that helps me stay grounded. 

Transitioning after high school though drinking became more common, peer pressure became worse and eventually it lead to going to clubs in Hull, Quebec, Canada to party. This continued until I was 20 years old, within bars and clubs in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. During this time period I had also been involved in gang life and had been using steroids, both oral and injective as well, as a part of a revenge plot I had for some guys that had jumped my younger brother at a party. The use of steroids also became part of the want to look more attractive due to being called ugly in high school by certain girls. At this point I was also facing a lot of emotional changes, nightmares, stresses from the lifestyle I was a part of and other challenges. Losing control, I hit rock bottom and had a suicide attempt after a night of drinking which lead to me being in a hospital the morning after. 

On March 18th, 2012 I made a commitment to live a sober life and as things progressed I learned how to deal with my emotions better, I was able to further my journey with music and I started to truly walk on my healing journey. In 2015, I went to the Indigenous Music Awards that were held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada after being up for two different award nominations in the “Best Rap/Hip-Hop CD” category and the “Single Of The Year” category. Meeting someone who is now my manager, Bruce Barber, at the award show also allowed more doors to open as we worked together. 

                                                                                   Cody Coyote - 2015 Indigenous Music Awards
                                                                                   Photo Credit: APTN

Touring to various communities and cities across Canada since 2015 has allowed me to meet many people, some of which have helped me in regards to connecting the dots with my blood relatives. Knowing that my father took a similar journey when he was younger too made me realize that we had both walked a very similar path and had similar past experiences. It wasn’t until later that after the everyday stresses that I felt, I was beginning to understand that I was feeling the intergenerational affects of what had happened with my father. 

Having spent 25 years not knowing who we were related to, we made contact with some members from our family and had gone to Matachewan First Nation for the first time as a family to meet them. Unsure of how we were all related made us all very curious but the acceptance that we received from them made us remain hopeful. It wasn’t until shortly after I turned 26 that I would encounter a part of my journey that would create a shift for us all. 

On April 25th, 2018 I had travelled to Kebaowek First Nation which is located in Kipawa, Quebec, Canada to perform for their community and facilitate a workshop. During my time there I had spent time with the organizers and after having conversations about who we all knew, one of them told me that she knew one of my relations. On April 27th, 2018 I met them for the first time in North Bay, Ontario, Canada and had received phone numbers from them of other relatives who would be able to help me puzzle things together. 

                                                                                   Cody Coyote - Kebaowek First Nation
                                                                                   Photo Credit: Cody Coyote

Once I arrived back in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, I sat down with my father and explained to him what had happened while I was up north. On April 26th, 2018 I had immediately made phone calls from the moment I woke up because I was eager to learn more. After speaking with a woman named JB, she spoke to me about how her sister MB and her brother GB had gone to residential school. We also spoke about how C.A.S. (Children’s Aid Society) had taken a lot of children from Matachewan First Nation as well as the Indian agents who had been present as well and had taken children to residential school. 

Janet and I spoke about how we believed that MB was my grandmother and the knowledge that I had of what had happened when my father was adopted. JB advised me that it would be best to contact her brother GB because he would be able to provide further information in regards to the questions that I had. 

My father had been told by Doreen Purcell that when he was adopted, a teen who appeared to be 13 to 14 years old was the biological mother who had put him up for adoption. The teen’s mother had been the one who signed all of the documents that were relative to my father which explained why he showed up as a 4th generation Batisse instead of a 5th generation Batisse on the records we had obtained from our sources in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 

On the afternoon of April 26th, 2018 I felt nervous, excited and a mix of other emotions while I made a phone call that would be the start to a new journey for us all. At approximately 2:00 PM EST I phoned GB to have a conversation with him and inquired about if he remembered anything being mentioned about a baby being born around 1960. GB was born in 1944 and had mentioned that he went to residential school in London, Ontario, Canada until he was 16 which was in 1960. After he had left the school he was told that his sister MB, born in 1947, had a baby and had given it up for adoption. 

This brought on tears of relief and joy. Nervous as ever, I told Gordon that I was now able to call him my great uncle and we made plans to see each other in May, 2018 when I am in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to perform at a festival. I also mentioned that I had two younger brothers, a father and a mother that would like to meet him as well.  

After 58 years of my father searching for answers, 25 years of me searching for answers, 24 years of my middle brother searching for answers and 20 years of my youngest brother searching for answers, we finally had confirmation of what had happened. My father now knew who his mother was and I now knew who my grandmother was.  

We were told by our relations that there was a secret in the family, that secret was my father. After years of unanswered questions, searching and not knowing, we finally found what we were looking for. 

Healing Through Art 

Music, what would I do without it? Where would I be if I had not began expressing myself through poetry and lyricism? Who would I be if I had not pursued my dream?

On March 23, 2018 I attended the Indigenous Youth Symposium that was held at Confederation High School and hosted by the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. While attending the symposium I had the opportunity to be their keynote speaker and guest performer. I spoke about my journey, my experiences with bullying, anti-bullying as well as how I found healing through art and culture.

                                      Cody Coyote - Indigenous Youth Symposium
                                      
Photo Credit: OCDSB

This music journey has been an amazing one but it wasn’t always that way for me. With my music and during my keynote speeches I speak about the struggles I had to endure as someone who grew up with little knowledge of his culture and with that a lack of cultural identity. Growing up having that cultural disconnect and doing my best to latch onto anything that would give me a sense of who I was in this world grew to be very difficult for me. Having the knowledge that my father had passed down to me and knowing that I was Ojibwe from Matachewan First Nation was something that I was appreciative of but was also very curious about.

Spending my childhood in a neighbourhood that had a lot of diversity and multiculturalism then moving to the suburbs where things were quite different was a big change for me. My parents worked so hard to get us out of a neighbourhood that had been pretty rough at the time and to provide our family with a better place to live which I always give thanks for. However throughout high school I had faced many challenges as well, one of those challenges was bullying. These bullies were people who had chosen to pick on me for things that I knew nothing about and that I could not change. 

Walking down the halls and hearing older students telling me to get a haircut was a regular thing. The old Hollywood “hand over the mouth gesture” as well as other forms of taunting, racism and name calling would take place too. The most common thing that would happen though was when I would have my hair in a ponytail, I would feel my head fly backward due to someone pulling my hair. These acts of bullying would often lead to me feeling embarrassed and shameful, resulting in having my hair cover my face to try and hide who I was. Now at 25 years old, going on 26, I understand why I got so angry whenever that happened but at the time it wasn’t as apparent as it is now that it was because someone was trying to access my spirit in a bad way.


I will always remember this one day where I had found gum in my hair and had tried my best to get it out but despite multiple attempts, it was too difficult to do so. This resulted in me having to walk to my locker to grab a pair of scissors and cut off the pieces of hair that had gum on them. Later on these experiences had lead me to completely cutting off my long hair due to the embarrassment and shame that I was feeling due to bullying. 

Adding to the emotions I was feeling from the bullying I had been encountering, I remember having to learn a false, sugar coated history of Canada. The story that was portrayed was that Europeans had come to these lands, made friends with Indigenous people and then Canada was born. Knowing that it wasn’t the truth I constantly looked for answers to all of the questions that I had and once I found some of them I immediately felt discomfort, anger and rage.

I remember one day in particular where the topic of Indian status cards had come up in class and it was being briefly explained to everyone. The teacher had asked me if I had a status card and I answered “yes”. Keeping in mind that my status card was used as an example, the conversation lead to tax exemption. Once the class heard about it one girl at the back of the class said “Well that’s not fair” and I completely lost it. I remember saying “You know what’s not fair? Knowing that your ancestors were killed and had their home taken from them”. 

Writing poetry helped me channel what I was feeling at times and with everything happening at school it was something that would ground me when I would write. Eventually this lead to one of my teachers introducing me to a studio at my school where I was able to experience the creation of music with some other students. What began with an electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and a microphone eventually evolved to creating instrumentals and experimenting with Hip-Hop. This is where my journey with music began and where I began to find confidence, healing and much more.

Towards the end of high school I started to hang out with the wrong crowd, being introduced into a group who offered protection against the people who had been bothering me and who had nurtured the fact that I was so angry. Being around other Indigenous people made me feel welcome, protected and a sense of belonging. The harassment had stopped and every person who had a problem with me from there on in was quickly silenced. I remember being told that I was a “Warrior” and the false idea that surrounded that was wearing colours, being able to fight when it came down to it and driving around with a sawn off 22 rifle behind my driver seat willing to use it. 

I remember being introduced to gang life which had a world of violence, drugs, alcohol and conflict with the law. From being in trap houses, being a driver for crack deals, being an extra body for fights, being in high speed chases and more, lead to this all being present for years. Being stopped by the police while driving around Ottawa’s east end became a regular thing and with that I had also faced racism which ultimately lead to carrying hatred, anger and conflict with them. 

Writing poetry helped me channel what I was feeling at times and with everything happening at school it was something that would ground me when I would write. Eventually this lead to one of my teachers introducing me to a studio at my school where I was able to experience the creation of music with some other students. What began with an electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and a microphone eventually evolved to creating instrumentals and experimenting with Hip-Hop. This is where my journey with music began and where I began to find confidence, healing and much more. 

Anger was still present throughout my teens though and I didn’t know how to manifest what I was feeling let alone properly deal with it at times. Throughout this period of time, I would be drinking alcohol, doing drugs, partying with others and at times using on my own in my room. Anything to numb what I was feeling and that would allow me to escape.   

Towards the end of high school I started to hang out with the wrong crowd, being introduced to a group who offered protection against the people who had been bothering me and who had nurtured the fact that I was so angry. Being around other Indigenous people made me feel welcome, protected and a sense of belonging. The harassment had stopped and every person who had a problem with me from there on in was quickly silenced. I remember being told that I was a “Warrior” and the false idea that surrounded that was wearing colours, being able to fight when it came down to it and driving around with a sawn off 22 rifle behind my driver seat willing to use it. 

I remember being introduced to gang life which had a world of violence, drugs, alcohol and conflict with the law. From being in trap houses, being a driver for crack deals, being an extra body for fights, being in high speed chases and more, lead to this all being present for years. Being stopped by the police while driving around Ottawa’s east end became a regular thing and with that I had also faced racism which ultimately lead to carrying hatred, anger and conflict with them.

While all this was taking place I began to use steroids, both oral and injective. I initially did this as a plot of revenge after a night where my younger brother had been jumped by a guy who was six years older than him but later on, the want of looking more attractive due to being called ugly made its way into the picture. The thing about steroids is that the dealer didn’t tell me about the emotional changes that came with it or how acne would break out on my body. While actively drinking, using steroids and facing stresses from the lifestyle I was involved in, I found myself hitting rock bottom. 

After a night of drinking I had been told by a girl to “Do us all a favour and go kill yourself”. The only thing I remember from that night was going home, grabbing a rope and a 26er of rum then taking a walk to a nearby forest area and having my brother find me after a suicide attempt. The morning after the police had shown up to my house and told me that I was being charged with mischief under $5000.00 for breaking two windows of a school. When they arrived my father had been asking me what had happened and I couldn’t find the courage to tell him what I had done.

Speaking to the police after my father had gone inside I told them what I remember happening the night before and they had brought me to the hospital with my brother to accompany me. I remember sitting in a room after speaking to one of their doctors and it felt like they didn’t want to give me the time of day. After being left in a room for so long we decided to get up and leave the hospital. This doctor made me feel as if I was inferior. 

When it came time to deal with the charges that I was facing I had two options. Option one was to go to a regular probation office, which I had done before due to prior charges but felt it didn’t work for me or option two, which was to go to the Odawa Native Friendship Centre to participate in their justice program that was specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Metis youth who were in conflict with the law. This was where I found a way out of the lifestyle that I was in. 

Being brought into a healing circle, then attending my first sweat lodge ceremony and attending community pow wows and round dances ultimately gave me a place to begin acquiring cultural identity. This also helped me get away from the crowd I had been hanging around with and to have better surroundings. Later on being able to learn more of my language helped a lot as well too. 

Having healthier surroundings had drawn me back to writing more frequently and eventually allowing me to express myself further through music. Music became my art form and became my medicine. It continues to be throughout my life journey and has remained to be an outlet for me. With hardwork and dedication, it has also become a career for me.

In 2015, I was a nominee in the “Best Rap/Hip-Hop CD” and “Single Of The Year” categories at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Since then I have toured across Canada performing music, keynote speaking about anti-bullying and facilitating workshops. My career has brought me to platforms such as the JUNO Showcase held at the Ottawa Music Summit on March 30th, 2017 and the National Arts Centre on January 25th, 2018. This year I am also a nominee in the “Best Music Video” category at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards.    

Throughout all of this music had been present and I had continued to write. It became my outlet and has remained to be that way to the present date. Finding my healing through art and being able to express myself has lead me to a life that I give thanks for every day, mino bimaadiziwin (the good life). With six years of sobriety, exercising on the regular, traveling across Canada performing music and being able to share about my journey with the future generations of this world as well as others, I have found strength and I am grateful for it. 

It just goes to show that everything happens for a reason and our experiences shape us into who we are truly destined to be. We all have inner strength but it will only be shown to us when the time is right and until that time we will learn many lessons which will better prepare us for that. 

If you have a dream, follow it. Everything that is worth experiencing will take a bit of work to get to but when you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything you set your heart to. If you have an art form that you enjoy, use it. Allow it to be your medicine. With hard work, dedication, motivation and perseverance anything is possible. Support others throughout their journey as well because the universe will send that energy back to you one day. 

I am a storyteller, I am a helper, I am a survivor and I found my healing through art.


                                      Cody Coyote - Indigenous Youth Symposium  
                                      Photo Credit: Josh Lewis

Is this for real?  

Round two with the great trail was absolutely amazing! 

On March 21, 2018 I was flown out to Toronto, ON, CA to open for Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo) at the Trans Canada Trail Thank you Donor Celebration that was held at the Globe and Mail Centre. Being able to fly out and attend such an event with my good friends Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs) and Elaina Martin (EC Productions) is something that I am very grateful for. Especially because having friends present in a different city, while performing in front of a new audience, certainly helps with calming nerves. 

                                             Cody Coyote, Shannon Marshall, Michael Mancini, Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs) & Elaina Martin 
                                             Photo Credit: Cody Coyote

Prior to catching our flight to Toronto, ON, CA, Frazer and I had met up with Shannon Marshall (Westfest) and Elaina for breakfast at the Ottawa airport where we were able to relax, converse and hang out for a while. The place of choice was Byward Taps, a spot where Elaina has gone regularly for quite some time before traveling and with that had been highly recommended. Being able to spend some time at a spot that had a story behind it and to catch up with friends while doing so was a comfortable, unique and great feeling as well as a great way to kick off the day before our adventure together.


After breakfast we had met up with Michael Mancini at the Porter Lounge in the Ottawa airport. Michael is an actor and was also hosting the Trans Canada Trail Thank You Donor Celebration event. Aside from that, I quickly learned that Michael is a respectful, understanding and kind person. 

For further information about Michael's work visit:
http://www.mensour.ca/portfolio/michael-mancini/

After catching our flight to Toronto, ON, CA we took the ferry from the Billy Bishop airport to where our ride was waiting for us. Frazer joked about how this was the first time we've travelled by air, sea and land to get to a gig which was both true and funny. A local limousine service had sent an all black SUV to pick us all up and drive us to the Globe and Mail Centre. I remember reminiscing in my thoughts, thinking "Is this for real?" and it didn't sink in until we had gotten into the SUV. That's when things had hit me full fledge that everything that was taking place was in fact for real and had me overwhelmed with appreciation. Being in deep thought as we travelled to the venue, I couldn't help but think about how far I had come and using that as my motivation it helped prepare me for the show that we were heading to.  

While performing at the Trans Canada Trail Thank You Donor Celebration event I rocked the house with my good friends Frazer Lee Whiteduck and Wesley King, who currently resides in Toronto, ON, CA. This was the second time I had performed on a stage for The Great Trail and what better way than to open for the man himself, Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo). The first time I had taken their stage was at Major's Hill in Ottawa, ON, CA on August 26th, 2017 alongside Frazer as well as Rapid Lake's very own Sonny Papatie. The same bill for that event included Steven Page from the renowned Bare Naked Ladies as the headliner.

                                      Sonny Papatie, Cody Coyote & Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs) - The Great Trail Cross-Canada Connection Celebration
                                      Photo Credit: Trans Canada Trail

                                      Steven Page (Bare Naked Ladies) & Cody Coyote - The Great Trail Cross-Canada Connection Celebration
                                      Photo Credit: Cody Coyote

Being able to have Wesley King join myself and Frazer at this show was truly an honour. Blowing the roof off of the place by first performing "Ogimaa" and then "Hit The Town" was truly a great way to open the event. Our families are all connected and with that a bigger family has been brought together on and off the stage. Wesley King is not only a good friend within my circle but he is also Theland Kicknosway's cousin. Theland has performed alongside myself and Frazer multiple times from previous years to the present and I hope to one day have all three of us on the same stage as well.  

                                                                                   Cody Coyote - Trans Canada Trail Thank You Donor Celebration
                                                                                   Photo Credit: Trans Canada Trail                                                                                   Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs) - Trans Canada Trail Thank You Donor Celebration 
                                                                                   Photo Credit: Trans Canada Trail

                                                                                   Wesley King - Trans Canada Trail Thank You Donor Celebration 
                                                                                   Photo Credit: Trans Canada Trail

The amount of energy that the crowds have given us at each event has been remarkable and receiving positive feedback from many who have attended has been a tremendous feeling. I feel that one of the best feelings about this journey is being able to provide these types of opportunities to the people who are within my circle and who haven't been given such platforms in the past. Ultimately while trailblazing through this journey I am committed to having audiences witness the talents of many Indigenous people as well as non-stereotypical, empowered, proud and overall respected representation of who we truly are.      

Mino Bimaadiziwin (Good Life) - Westfest 2018 

"Ain't no party like a Westfest party cause a Westfest party don't stop!" 

On March 4, 2018 I attended the Westfest 2018 Fundraiser and Festival Media Launch that was held at the Cube Gallery in Ottawa, ON, CA. After being involved with Westfest for the past two years I've had the opportunity to meet so many great volunteers, organizers and overall amazing people with whom I will have friendships with for the rest of my life. Among these amazing people are my friends President of EC Production and Producer of Westfest, Elaina Martin and her partner Cara. Getting to know Elaina throughout the years has been a wonderful experience all in itself. Her kind heart, will to help others, warrior spirit and friendship is something that I am honoured to know. Cara has also been someone that I have a growing friendship with and carries one of the kindest presences I know. This year I am excited to reunite with Elaine and Cara as well as everyone at Westfest again and to be able to see the wonderful acts that the festival has in store for it's audience! 

Two years ago on March 6, 2016 I performed at the Westfest 2016 Fundraiser that was held at the Orange Art Gallery with Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs) and David Charette (White Deer). This was the first of many great experiences that I had with Westfest and I will always remember it. We all brought the right energy for the show and blew the roof off of that place. The excitement, energetic claps, cheers and overall positive vibes from the audience that day will be very hard to forget.

                                         Cody Coyote, Chi-Wiiyahs & White Deer - Westfest 2016 Fundraiser
                                         Photo credit: Westfest

The Westfest 2016 Fundraiser performance opened some doors when I was invited to perform on CTV Morning Live on June 3, 2016 to help promote Westfest. After finding out about this I immediately contacted Chi-Wiiyahs and White Deer to invite them to perform on live television with me. The excitement that we felt was the equivalent to that of which a young child would have going to Disney Land for the first time. This was the first time we performed on live television together and after overcoming nerves, we rocked the house.  


                                      CTV Morning Live: Cody Coyote
                                      Web Link: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=883441

After all of the hype and momentum that was there, I remember being super excited about this but Mother Nature had something else in store. When it came time to perform at Westfest 2016, the festival had to shut down the stage for safety purposes and by law regulations due to a severe storm that had hit Ottawa, ON, CA. Receiving this news was heartbreaking. but as time went by I realized that everything happens for a reason. From the way that this played out, it made my spirituality grow further than what it was before. 

On June 2, 2017, after waiting a whole year to perform at Westfest I was given the opportunity to do so again. This time I was performing alongside my good friends and traditional dancers, Frazer Lee Whiteduck (Chi-Wiiyahs), Theland Kicknosway, Don Barnaby and Marian Snow. Nerves had my stomach in a knot, especially because the sky was very cloudy and I was praying to Gitchie Manito (the Creator) that it wasn't going to rain again. When it came time to perform it was as if it was a scene out of a movie and at this moment my spirituality grew further. As soon as all four dancers hit the stage and began dancing, the clouds had cleared the sky and the sun came beaming down on all of us. When this happened we put our all into the performance and represented who we are. This will always be an experience that I will hold close to my heart.

                                      Marian Snow, Don Barnaby, Cody Coyote, Chi-Wiiyahs & Theland Kicknosway - Westfest 2017
                                      Photo Credit: Westfest

                                      Cody Coyote - Westfest 2017
                                      Photo Credit: Andre Gagne - Ottawa Life Magazine

After our performance, the clouds in the sky shut again and continued for the remainder of the day. The way that I still interpret this experience to date is that our ancestors were watching us that day and it reflected through our strong performance together. Carrying the sense of pride that I had after performing that day was something that made me feel incredible and I feel comfortable saying that I know I wasn't the only one feeling that way. 

Fast forward to the present, post Westfest 2018 Fundraiser and Festival Media Launch. Sitting here in a moment of reflection, after finally being able to share the exciting news with the world that I will be headlining Westfest 2018 on Sunday June 10, 2018 at 8:50 PM. I can't help but feel eternally grateful and overwhelmed with emotion. Finally all of the hard work and dedication is paying off.

Never would I have thought that my journey would bring me to where I am today but everyday I give thanks for what I have, who is a part of my life and where I am. Everyone has their own trials and tribulations but we find true strength when we are able to persevere throughout them. I am grateful that I have been able to do so and that by following my heart and my dream it has brought me to this part of my journey. Hearing those words announced... that I will be headlining Westfest, it hit me right in the feels and it took everything in my power to keep my composure. 

                                      Cody Coyote & Elaina Martin - Westfest 2018 Fundraiser and Festival Media Launch
                                      Photo Credit: Westfest

                                      Cody Coyote - Westfest Fundraiser and Festival Media Launch
                                      Photo Credit: Andre Gagne - Ottawa Life Magazine

Not many people know the depth of my story but here's a glimpse of what I feel comfortable sharing and feel people should hear in order to understand who I am now and how I got here. Throughout the bullying in high school for having long hair and being Indigenous. Being harassed, shoulder checked and taunted by older boys and called ugly by girls. Throughout the time where I was actively using alcohol to numb the pain I was feeling. Throughout the time I was using steroids to try and better my outer appearance. Throughout the violence, high speed chases, drugs and gang involvement. Throughout the aftermath of a suicide attempt. Throughout the course of being in a physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for close to a year. Throughout finding myself in a similar situation after taking time to heal then attempting to date again. Throughout being told that I wasn't good enough, that I wouldn't do anything with my life, that I would either end up dead or in jail. Throughout the continued day to day stresses I feel of being an intergenerational survivor of child welfare, seeking to learn my culture and language, hoping to find out what truly happened when my father was adopted in the 60's. I acknowledge that I am still here and that I am a survivor. 

I cried. I cried while giving my friend a big hug and it was because around this time close to six years ago, I was ready to give up on life. Since then I've been able to see the many beautiful things that life has to offer and have been so appreciative to have experienced some of them. This also applies for the wonderful, supportive people that have become a part of my journey. As of March 18, 2012 I have been sober from drugs and alcohol and my life has changed for the better.  Having a stronger connection to my culture has been medicine for me. Having a healthy relationship with my family is something that I value, appreciate, love and cherish more than anything in the world. Having a strong circle of friends means so much to me, as well as the kind women in my life and they all know who they are. Another thing that I will always be thankful for is the amount of love, support and guidance that Elaina has given me through friendship and this music journey. The world should know Elaina by the name that Elder Claudette Commanda has given her, "Ogichidaa Kwe" which means "Warrior Woman" in Anishnaabemowin. Someone who's warrior spirit has and continues to touch many. 

                                                                                   Photo Credit: Nathalie Carrier

When I perform at Westfest 2018, it will be to honour my family, my friends, this mino bimaadiziwin (good life) that Gitchie Manito (the Creator) has given me and anyone who has been through or is going through similar experiences as I have. 

"My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back." - Louis Riel

    

 

Parallels 

Parallel: a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another. 

On March 3rd, 2018 I attended the BYAP (Black Youth Action Plan) Ottawa Pop Up event that was hosted by Just Think 1st at the RA Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


While attending the event, there were discussions surrounding various topics of what has been occurring within Black communities as well as covering topics that focused on youth empowerment. One topic that was highlighted was the ongoing gun violence that is currently happening within Ottawa and the violence that is found within Black communities. Just Think 1st has made a commitment to "disrupting the disruption" and ending violence in communities. As an Indigenous ally who lives in Ottawa and has experienced violence, I wanted to attend this event to learn more about how I could help. I knew the best way to do so was to be respectful by being quiet and listening. The more I listened, the more I began to see some similarities between Black communities and Indigenous communities. 

There came a time in the event where there was a break out period which consisted of individual groups having to collectively come up with answers to questions that were provided by the event facilitators. As I sat there and listened, I couldn't help but resonate with some of the answers that came up. The answers that I speak of are the ones that had to do with intergenerational trauma, lack of cultural identity and violence within communities. All of which are similar traits found within Indigenous communities. 

During the event I sat at the table with a woman named Sarah who is a part of Black History Month Ottawa. Sarah and I spoke about how colonialism has affected and created ripple effects for generations of Black people as well as Indigenous people. We spoke about Columbus, the transatlantic slave trade, residential schools and topics relative to our communities. Another thing that we spoke about was how there has been a long existing relationship between the Black Nation and the Red Nation.

                                       "It hurts....." "I know..." 
                                        Artist: Unknown

 

From times where both were killed, enslaved and imprisoned by white colonialists. To the generations afterwards where both have been statistically proven to have had increasing incarceration rates while in the face of systemic racism. Both have continued to fight for equality, justice and freedom. 

Seeing these parallels has provided the realization of why the relationship was so strong and needs to remain that way. With the ongoing violence, poverty levels, racism, addictions/substance abuse, over representation of inmates within the justice system and other problems that Black and Indigenous communities are facing, solidarity needs to remain among the two. Allies for both need to learn as much as possible and listen to what both communities have to say. 

As part of the healing process many have seen how culture, art, dance and music have affected both communities in a positive way. All of these traits have been present since prior to contact and have been revitalizing. These traits have been medicine for many but they have also been an outlet and something that is used to initiate change. 

Throughout generations resiliency has remained for both groups of people and is something that is increasing as each day passes. Voices have been growing louder and become stronger. People have been becoming more educated and advanced. The only way that we will be able to see change for the injustices that each have faced is by continuing to stand up for what is right, showing our solidarity for each other and using our voices, refusing to be silenced. 

"A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong." - Tecumseh

Pink Shirt Day 2018 

“You look like a girl!”…You’re ugly!”…”Get a haircut!”…”You’re dirty!”… 

As touchy of a subject that it is, speaking about bullying and how it affects others is a very important topic that needs to be discussed, especially with the future generations of this world. 

On February 28th, 2018, I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker/performer at the Ottawa Pink Shirt Day 2018 event that was held at the Canterbury Community Centre and hosted by the Canterbury Community Association.


The original “Pink Shirt Day” event had been organized by David Shepherd and Travis Price of Berwick, Nova Scotia. In 2007 they had bought and given out 50 pink shirts after Chuck McNeill, a male ninth grade student, was bullied for wearing a pink shirt during the first day of school. Since then “Pink Shirt Day” events have been held globally and have played a big role in the anti-bullying cause.  

Prior to attending Pink Shirt Day 2018, I had revisited old memories of what things were like for me throughout elementary school and high school. In high school it became apparent that I was “different” when some of the older students would single me out for having long hair. Girls would call me ugly or laugh at me. Feeling my head fly backward due to someone pulling on my ponytail became an unfortunate but regular feeling as well. When this would happen it often lead to the feeling of being enraged and later depressed. In some cases this would also lead to violence, which often resulted in more problems. I remember one day in particular when I was walking down the hallway to go to my locker, I went to tie my hair up and when I did so I had found a piece of gum in my hair. Struggling to get it out I remember having to cut a bit of my hair off, which had added to the embarrassment I was already carrying. As the bullying continued, I later endured racism as a part of it. The old Hollywood “hand over the mouth” gesture made it’s way into the picture except the older suburban caucasian students were the cowboys and well…I was the “Indian”. This lead to taunting, shoulder contact while passing me in the halls and various name calling. 

Being able to share with the youth at this event was something that I will always remember. Their willingness to listen and their want to help provided the older people who attended with hope for the future, myself included. Being able to speak to them and ask them about what traits a leader has and what traits a follower has was something that I feel was pretty receptive. This lead me to teaching them a new word, “Ogimaa” which means “Leader” in Anishnaabemowin. Hearing their claps and excitement when it came time to perform my song “Ogimaa”, off of my album “Mamawi”, was a great feeling as well. When it came close to finishing my speaking session I left the youth with a very special teaching, one that I have kept with me for quite some time. I brought out my eagle feather that had been gifted to me by a friend and as soon as I did the room went completely silent. Followed by this I delivered the teaching, which I have been taught however to not put in writing out of respect for oral tradition. What I will say though is that it had to do with acknowledging that for every negative there is a positive and that we are to support each other throughout our journeys together. I ended by teaching them the word “Mamawi” which means “All Together” in Anishnaabemowin.




After passing down the knowledge that had been given to me with this teaching, two youth had brought up a big painting with the words “Mamawi Together” at the top of it and “We are all flowers from the same garden” at the bottom of it. As if the painting wasn’t already heartfelt enough, these youth had asked me to personally deliver this wonderful painting to the Odawa Native Friendship Centre here in Ottawa. The amount of kindness that this painting carries is something that I am grateful to be able to witness.


Our future generations are learning about bullying and the affects it has on people. They are also learning the true history of what happened here on Turtle Island and are taking the right steps to create positive change. Seeing that they are taking the steps to stand up for what is right warms my heart and I am grateful that they are doing it together, mamawi.

Boozhoo! Welcome! 

Have you ever wondered what an artist’s journey would be like prior to fame? Would you ever want to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes? Have you ever wondered where they find the inspiration behind their music? Behind any form of music, there is an artist. Behind any artist, there is inspiration. Behind inspiration, there is a story. Come take a walk with me throughout mine, I welcome you to my journey. 

My name is Cody Purcell, also known by my stage name Cody Coyote. I am a Hip-Hop/Electronic recording artist, Keynote Speaker and Workshop Facilitator. I was born on April 17th, 1992 and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with Ojibwe ancestry from Matachewan First Nation, located in Northern Ontario. Throughout my journey I often share portions of my life experiences when I am on stage, keynote speaking or facilitating a workshop. However, I don’t feel that there is ever enough time to share as much as I would like to share, which brings me to this blog. From 2013 to now my journey with music has taken me to so many places. It has allowed me to gain much experience, meet so many great people and to share my story with those who would listen. As each day goes by, there is always something new happening and there is always more to share. For this reason I welcome you to my blog to discover more about my music, my story and my journey.  This is Music and the Journey.