Status/Non-Status is the new name for the ongoing musical work of Anishinaabe community worker Adam Sturgeon (Nme’) and his longtime collaborators (fka Whoop-Szo). The band spent a decade carving a path through Canada’s DIY scene before leveling up thanks to 2019’s acclaimed long player Warrior Down (You’ve Changed Records). This album confronted Sturgeon’s complex family history and identity and was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize among numerous other accolades. Now, the band emerges renewed, with more stories to share …
Adam is ‘non-status’ as defined by the Canadian government. Adam’s grandfather Ralph made the difficult decision to enfranchise in order to support himself and his family by joining the Armed Forces. Enfranchisement was the government’s term for the legal process of turning in one’s Status Card, terminating one’s Indian Status, and becoming instead a Canadian citizen. It was a pillar of the government’s assimilation policy and a requirement for any Indigenous person who wished to enlist.
In the name of providing a better life for himself and his family, Ralph was required to forsake his Anishinaabe roots, an all-too-common experience for Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. Acts of colonial violence such as enfranchisement, the residential school system, and the Indian Act have resulted in disconnection amongst generations of Indigenous people from their communities, languages, land, and identities. Today, new voices are rising up and — through acts of reclamation via art, language, music, and community — taking back spaces that have been dominated by settler culture for so many years.
Who is native enough? Who ‘counts’ as Indigenous, and who does not? These questions swirl through the Canadian arts discourse today, impacting every medium and revealing fundamental inadequacies within our current identity-defining systems. For Adam, the proof is in the work; his commitment to telling his family’s story with integrity and truth informs every aspect of his music and his life. Now a father to his own young son, it is the future that allows Adam to dig further into his roots.
“When we tell stories, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. Do the necessary work to earn trust. Share your experience as one voice within a greater circle … and find a home.”
The 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years Limited Edition 12″ EP features musical program on Side A and graphic etching on Side B. Released in collaboration with Grizzlar Records. The EP will be released in full May 28, 2021.
“Find A Home” is the first song on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years EP. The video was created remotely by the Olde Nightrifter (aka Eiyn Sof, recent collaborator of Rick White). On “Find A Home”, Sturgeon says:
“It is within the small and simple things that we find ourselves. On a long drive, a quick walk down to the river, or cooped up in silence at home. It is in our language and in our names. When I started making this music, I didn’t know a whole lot about myself or who I was. Métis, they would call me. Part Ojibwe. Part this or that. Which part? Same old story for the mixed breeds. Never saw my true reflection staring back at me.
On those long and lonely drives between tour stops, you can see life move but you only get a dusty windshield of a view. The occasional flat lets ya stop to peak the landscape. A snowstorm lets you know its history. These things shape you, give you ‘experience’. I’ve seen a lot of gas stations, no doubts there: informed.
Giving the time and reflection to do my best is what it comes down to. That, and driving overnight. Sometimes our best hurts. Hurts ourselves, hurts others. It always hurts you when it hurts someone else by the way. And so at night, out there … nowhere, I’ve touched down and untangled the black roots of this strawberry heart. There were things I couldn’t see around the corner, not on this dark road. Not even on the brightest prairie day. At night, on the road, on and off stage I fill myself. Wake up new, on a floor, on the move, anywhere.
Music has helped me when I can’t find answers. For a long time I didn’t know where we were driving, and I mean all of us. This road put my mind together and maybe we all can too. Find a new way. Until then, I keep filling the tank. Reclaimed …”
WATCH NOW: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Sandra Brewster present “Viscosity”.
Viscosity was filmed at Leslie Spit in Toronto – a human made piece of land that juts into Chi’Nibish (Lake Ontario) and has now become naturalized. Leslie Spit is home to Tommy Thompson Park and a large portion of it is classified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and it is recognized as an Important Bird Area. (It is also a setting in Simpson’s highly recommended novel Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies.) Simpson commissioned Brewster in making the film and supported Brewster in developing her own visual interpretation of the song. The resulting film is a rich black and white experimental work where land is centered, where Black and Indigenous place-making are celebrated, and where images are in conversation with sound.
Directed by Sandra Brewster
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Vocals
Ansley Simpson – Acoustic guitar, vocals
Nick Ferrio – Bass, electric guitar, vocals
Jim Bryson – Acoustic guitar
Tanner Pare – Drums
Jonas Bonnetta – Piano, synth, vocals, drum programming