With 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years, Status/Non-Status explores the ramifications of colonialism through generations.
If you didn’t know better, you would think it was the plot of a dystopian speculative fiction novel.
Entire communities stripped of their way of life — forced off of land they have inhabited for generations — by conquering invaders. Invaders with no regard or respect for the people they’re forcing into abandoning homes and homesteads. Their motivation is to spread their influence and control as far across the land as possible. In doing so, they determine that the next course of action against those who they see as standing in their way is extinction. And so begins an inter-generational tale in which families who lived in harmony with the land must assimilate, abandon their traditions, and assume new identities to survive. Children are ripped from their caregivers and sent to heinous institutions that seek to wipe away all traces of their language and culture. This leads to entire generations of descendants either struggling or unable to lay claim to myriad histories, cultures, and sets of traditions that should have been left to flourish. The conquerors have imposed systems, rules, procedures, and policies — a tidier, conscience-cleansing way to unleash mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. For those who uphold the systems that made this abjection possible, the only thing left is to hide behind bureaucratic maneuverings and half-baked, politicized, conciliatory gestures as the trauma continues to trickle down through the generations.
But we know better. There is nothing speculative about the history of genocide and persecution inflicted on the Indigenous peoples of Canada by colonial settlers. The passing of time makes it easier for the descendants of these settlers to dismiss the sins of their forebears. Time makes it easy to celebrate the founding of a nation built upon the displacement and degradation of others. But time has done little to diminish the fire for those struggling to reclaim their heritage, language, and the futures that were stripped away from them. Even after centuries of oppression and violence, they work to find their way back home and make sense of who they believe themselves to be.
It is against this backdrop that Adam Sturgeon of Status/Non-Status starts the latest chapter in his band’s musical journey, one in line with his personal journey of identity and history as a non-status Indigenous person. Warrior Down, the band’s last release under their former name WHOOP-Szo, was informed by the story of Sturgeon’s grandfather, a residential school survivor who enfranchised and gave up his Indian status and assumed Canadian citizenship and joined the military in order to provide for his family. With their EP 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years, Status/Non-Status picks up the story from there, exploring the ramifications of colonialism through the generations and Sturgeon’s reconnection to the culture and ancestry that his grandfather’s forced enfranchisement robbed him.
Recorded in 2018 after spending time in Guadalajara, Mexico on an exchange program, 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years explores the similarities of colonialism’s effects between Indigenous people in Canada and Mexico. In many ways, the EP feels like a travelogue of their time in Mexico (and not just because of the sound collage of recordings from Mexico named “Untitled Travelogue” midway through). It opens with “Find A Home,” an older song that Sturgeon has described as being about self-acceptance and loving all aspects of yourself. Its soothing, soulful harmonies serve as a stark contrast to “Genecidio,” a bombastic ripper borne out of the continued ripples of colonialism in our modern-day existence.
Continuing the Conversation
Status/Non-Status: Adam Sturgeon of Status/Non-Status discusses the colonial process in which his family became non-status in the eyes of the Canadian government, recording 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years in Guadalajara, Mexico, and more.
Sturgeon picks up the personal threads in “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,” a song as disorientating as the invisible effects of concussions that both he and his father experienced as professional hockey players. 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years closes with another collage (“500 Years”) featuring Alvaro, the band’s guide in Guadalajara, speaking of the city’s history of culture and art occurring concurrently with genocide and oppression of Indigenous people.
If you didn’t know better, you would think that the themes explored on 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years are a part of the past, a chapter that’s been closed and dealt with. Of course, they are not. Canada is only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to uncovering its atrocities. You know better than to think that the discoveries of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools are isolated incidents. You know that the continued lack of clean drinking water and the basic necessities of life in over fifty Indigenous communities in Canada is an unexplainable indignity rooted in the very foundation of this nation. You know that this is not just about a band that changed its name and released a record; it isn’t just about someone trying to reconnect with their ancestral roots; it isn’t just about being truthful about the past and taking responsibility for what’s happening in the present in order to move to a future of reconciliation and healing. It’s about all those things.