Cody Bowles of Crown Lands Addresses Indigeneity Questions: "I Experienced My Entire Life Through This Lens of Being"

The musician was raised by their father as part Mi'kmaq

Photo: Andy Ford

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Dec 5, 2023

Cody Bowles of prog rock duo Crown Lands — who have written many songs about Indigenous rights — has responded to questions about their claims to Indigeneity in a lengthy statement.

The musician explained that their father raised them as part Mi'kmaq, which is also how their father was raised. Bowles described their hesitancy to probe their father about their familial roots, as he was abandoned by his father (Bowles's grandfather) at a young age, and the musician was ultimately encouraged to work with a genealogist to find out for themself.

They received the report, which apparently showed that their ancestors were almost entirely of African descent, tracing their lineage back to Black loyalists who escaped plantations and fled to Nova Scotia in the 1700s. "The reports showed that my ancestors lived amongst the Mi'kmaq peoples for hundreds of years and there may have been intermarrying, but the census reports still indicated African," Bowles wrote.

They continued, "This news shook me to the core to find no obvious Indigenous connection, because I was raised my whole life to celebrate that side of our ancestry. I experienced my entire life up to this through this lens of being."

Bowles added that their family was spiritually connected to the culture, and that they spent many formative years around Alderville First Nation. "Though it has not changed my upbringing or the values that have been instilled in me by my upbringing, these findings (or lack thereof) have changed the way I view myself," they wrote. "I should have done this work before."

The musician continued:

I want to apologize for claiming Mi'kmaq identity without first being claimed by the community, and not being sure where my family was from while believing Millbrook First Nation was a potential connection.

I understand that by not vetting my lineage, I may have caused harm to people and the community, and that was never my intention. I want you all to know that these messages in my songs and my views are genuine and it has always come from a place of love, empathy, and a strong will to support Indigenous people and elevate their voices.

This new knowledge changes nothing about my respect for the Indigenous community, their struggles, my wanting to elevate their voices, or what I believe in, but I want you all to know that from the depths of my heart, I am sorry.

Bowles also noted that the genealogist's findings weren't entirely conclusive, and that it's possible that they ancestors may have lied to the census enumerators to avoid being discriminated against.

Of what's next for themself and Crown Lands, the artist admitted their uncertainty. "Honestly, at this point who knows, I just know that we've got a lot of info to digest, loads of questions to answer and we've got some healing to do, but my truth is out in the world," Bowles wrote. "As for whether we'll continue playing music: of course, we will return to playing music again soon, but how that will look is still something we're sorting through."

Read their full statement below.

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