Cody Coyote: Music and the journey

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.