Status/NonStatus Explores Indigenous Identity and Advocacy
This month, Side Door, the platform that helps artists and creators find places to perform, had a partnership with SXSW called “Side Door to SXSW.” The event created tours for six SXSW showcasing artists traveling to Austin, Texas, for this year's festival. Status/Non-Status
was one of the bands invited to participate in the tour. The alternative rock group is the musical work of Anishinaabe community worker Adam Sturgeon (Nme’) and his longtime collaborators (fka Whoop-Szo).
Their new album “1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years” explores Sturgeon’s family history and search for identity. They explore concepts such as: Who is native enough? Who ‘counts’ as Indigenous, and who does not? These questions are widespread within Indigenous communities. This year was a redo of their 2020 tour schedule that was impacted by COVID-19.
“Side Door was gracious enough to have us back, and we cannot thank them enough for their support. These shows have been a way to show another side of ourselves; acoustic,” he said. “During these performances, I get to speak a little (more calmly, I might add) to the issues faced by my family as Non-Status indigenous people in Canada. I was especially interested to know what American audiences know about these circumstances as well.”
Status/Non-Status stopped by Troy and gave an incredible performance. The lyrics of their songs paint a picture of the advocacy work and realities that the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis face in Canada when it comes to identity and never forgetting one’s roots and history. Now that Sturgeon is a father of a young son, he wants to learn more about his ancestry.
“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,” he said. “These shows have been a way for us to show another side of ourselves; acoustic. During these performances, I get to speak a little (more calmly, I might add) to the issues faced by my family as Non-Status indigenous people in Canada. I was especially interested to know what American audiences know about these circumstances as well.”
Sturgeon has been able to travel across all Indian countries. He and his bandmate Kirsten were able to live as guests in an Intuit village and northern First Nation communities that are only accessible by plane.
“I've spent time learning teachings from elders and community members all across Turtle Island. In these experiences, we've learned our efforts are best placed within our own communities,” he said. “In my home territories, there are three distinct Nations- Oneida, Chippewa, and Munsee Delaware. The best way for our communities to collaborate is in solidarity. That is to say… that I respect others for who they are and the ways of those people and will participate as is custom, and hopefully, they will do the same for me and my people.”
Because they live in an urban setting, the group was able to create an art space called Rezonance. It is located in downtown Deshkan Ziibi (London, ON) and is focused on helping indigenous youth learn and earn essential job skills.
“Most importantly, though, it's a space where we can reconnect to our cultures,” he said.
When it comes to needed reforms, Sturgeon says that he feels the story of being considered non-status has a lot to do with very pressing issues such as the child welfare system, missing and murdered indigenous women/2 spirit people, and housing.
“I've done a lot of work in all these fields. Right now, we are part of a housing project called the Imagine Build, where we are fundraising and asking nonindigenous groups to support housing and building infrastructure in Oneida Nation of the Thames. One house at a time,” he said. “This all said, issues of status and identity within Canada's Indian Act are so important to myself and my family. I'm fortunate my dad raised me to understand these things and have my aunt and our family name as a guide. My music is my responsibility in getting this message out there. “