It has been the best of times and the worst of times for First Nations rapper and motivational speaker, Cody Coyote. While he was recently nominated for Radio Song-Single of the Year and Youth Leadership in Music awards at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Music Awards and won Best Male Hip Hop Artist at the first annual International Indigenous Hip-Hop Awards, like many Indigenous people, he is grappling with the discovery of the remains of over 1000 children across Canada who were forced to attend government-funded residential schools.
The story hit even closer to home when Coyote visited the ruins of the residential school attended by his family. In a video posted to Facebook, Coyote can be seen sobbing and struggling to compose himself as he stands inside what remains of the structure.
“Due to the Spanish Residential Schools my family was broken apart and taken from their homelands in my home community Matachewan First Nation”, he explains.
“My grandmother, great uncle and several of my cousins attended these schools. My father was also put into the child welfare system and was a part of the 60’s Scoop. With all all of this it took me 25 years and my father much longer to meet our relatives and a lot of struggles happened throughout those years.”
Coyote has channeled his pain into a brand new single “Helpless”. Strategically released the day before Canada Day, the song honours both the children who died because of the Canadian Residential Schools, as well as the survivors and their families.
“Will I die? Will I live? Will I make it out of this? If I try to run from it, will I stay feeling helpless?”
Lyrics from the song “Helpless”
“I wrote this song after learning about my family members who were forcibly taken to the Spanish Residential Schools in Spanish, Ontario, Canada. After speaking with my relatives, I learned that my great uncle and my cousin attempted to run away twice from St. Peter Claver’s Residential School but were forcibly brought back both times to Spanish afterwards. While writing this song, I thought of how they must have felt and how other Indigenous folks must have felt while being in these institutions, the helplessness of not being able to escape places where horrific acts were being committed towards Indigenous children.”
The song offers a window into the pain and helplessness many in the Indigenous community are feeling as Coyote sings, “Will I die? Will I live? Will I make it out of this? If I try to run from it, will I stay feeling helpless?”
For Coyote, the song is about helping his people to heal during this time. May this song help bring healing to the Indigenous people and awareness and empathy to those of us who are willing to listen.
“Helpless” is available on all major streaming platforms.