Music and Indigeneity

When I first started making music I focused on my experiences, desires and obstacles as a young queer. I had to go to church/cult twice, sometimes three times a week. The congregation of the Brethren told me at a young age that my Native ancestry was comprised of a lost group without the help of Christ and could do no good in their godless lives. When I was surrounded by other Native people in my community, I could feel what I had learned at church acting as a repellent between myself and them. I felt as though there was something not quite right about what the Brethren was telling me, but did not have the accessibility to ask any outsider what the truth really was. Even if I had asked someone outside of the congregation, I most likely wouldn't have believed anything from a 'sinner'. 

 

At fifteen I expressed particularly embarrassing phases of distain and angst, but still couldn't exactly wrap my head around what the source of my problems were. Most songs I wrote at the time were about love, some were about problematic nouveau hippie approaches to save the world, and at the time this seemed like an easy thing to express. I had to tread lightly in my rebellion, I acted out through secretly smoking cigarettes, drinking too much vodka and sleeping with closeted men to find a sense of belonging. I didn't understand my peoples history at the time to it's full application of how I am now represented in a colonial system. In my adolescence I believed the right thing to do was express gratitude for how far the world has come. I especially could not to question or disagree with the whitewashed world because it would be alienating to do so.

 

I moved to Montreal, started making music and instead of trying to push out any significant message, I decided to set my issues aside and sing english words that sounded good to me but were effectively garbage and nonsensical. At the time, I believed that music didn't need to have any specific message. In a new phase of ignorance, I was portraying apathy in an attempt to connect with a culture that seemingly never pays attention to the words. The product of these efforts were hollow and had no lasting power. Eventually I knew I needed to look deeper and learn more about what I was not given the opportunity to pursue when I was young.

 

Here I am at this point, where I feel that singing is the most crucial way for me to express my identity and place, it is the best way to make a connection.  Singing in Algonqiun is a new challenge for me, I write in fragmented structures as I continue to learn how to use the language properly. I have learned and identify as a two spirit / niizh manitoag person. I have the courage now to express myself as a woman where I was reprimanded for it as a child as early as four years old. The moment I started owning my ancestry was the first time I actually felt a sense of self love. The mainstream ideals and colonial aspect of what I live in today is something I don't care to embrace anymore. I discovered my main problem was my silence demonstrated through noise. People who do in fact, pay attention to the words deserve to hear something true. 

 

Truth can be expressed through stories that plant a seed to strengthen identity and nurture empowerment. The marginalized first nations who were forced out of their homes to make way for the ideals of visitors turned residents cannot be forgotten. We look at the power of music and stories that push our heritage to todays world. The wheels are in motion for decolonisation but we need to show the missing, we need to show the murdered and we need to show that we have no time for apathy. Our languages, people and resources are sacred, we can't cover everything up anymore with white or else there will be no colour left to embrace. It's time to enter our history and existence into consciousness to exemplify the beauty of diversity.

Youth Blog

This blog is for youth in the community. It will be maintained by Mich Cota. Mich will be contributing a blog on a monthly basis to start. If you are a youth and would like to contribute a blog or talk directly with Mich please send an email to aafnayouth@cogeco.ca and let us know.

Bio: Mich Cota is a niizh manitoag trans woman currently residing in Moniang. She is from Maberly, Ontario and lived independently from her early teens in Perth. Mich is an artist, writer and composer and focuses on her Algonquin ancestry to create and collaborate with other First Nations people, as well as queers and allies.