Books

Polaris Prize finalists Ombiigizi recommend the Indigenous futurism of Moon of the Crusted Snow

Ombiigizi singer-songwriter and guitarist Adam Sturgeon tells CBC Books about re-reading Waubgeshig Rice's novel Moon of the Crusted Snow.

The Anishnaabe duo are 2022 finalists for their debut album Sewn Back Together

Adam Sturgeon, right, of the Anishinaabe duo Ombiigizi, recommends reading Waubgeshig Rice's novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. (Rima Sater, ECW Press)

Daniel Monkman and Adam Sturgeon are no strangers to exploring their cultural history through music. Both Anishnaabe artists have in recent years released albums — Monkman with their "moccasin shoegaze" solo project Zoon and Sturgeon with his band Status/Non-Status — that directly reference their Indigenous heritage and personal stories.

But in coming together as the duo Ombiigizi, the pair is drawing on the very sense of community that's at the heart of their culture, offering up their take on Indigenous futurisms on their 2022 debut album Sewn Back Together.

The collaboration landed them their first Polaris Music Prize nomination as one of the ten albums shortlisted for the 2022 Polaris Prize, which celebrates the best Canadian album of the year. The winner, who will receive $50,000, will be announced on Sept. 19, 2022. 

Produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and engineer Nyles Spencer of the Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studio, Sewn Back Together is steeped in shoegaze, dream pop and post-rock, with clear-eyed lyrics that examine Canada's current reckoning with its past while trying to picture a future shaped by healing and the guidance of culture.

Cover artwork for Ombiigizi's 2022 album Sewn Back Together. (Killbeat Music)

Ombiigizi singer-songwriter and guitarist Adam Sturgeon told CBC Books about recently re-reading Waubgeshig Rice's post-apocalyptic 2018 novel  Moon of the Crusted Snow with his family, and why it's so important to tell — and listen to — Indigenous stories.

Sharing through storytelling

"I first met Waubgeshig Rice at a small punk show in Ottawa. I then followed his life stories on Twitter and recognize him as an immense spirit of our time.

Stories are a way to internalize the shared experiences of our people, so as to not feel so alone on the journey.

"I'm a big fan of Indigenous authors. They bring culture to places where it cannot always be found, which is so important for our people spread across Turtle Island. These stories can be a bonding experience between generations or a learning tool for students, citizens and urbanites.

"Perhaps most importantly, they are a way to internalize the shared experiences of our people in good and sometimes challenging ways, so as to not feel so alone on the journey."

A relevant read

"Waub Rice's book  Moon of the Crusted Snow is a post-apocalyptic futurist book. It brings our journey full-circle with a return to the land, the teachings and the simple guidance of our cultural spirit. 

"Recently, I spent some time in the woods with my family. With a spring water hook-up and tiny roof over our head, we were completely remote from the world. We had to climb a mountain for cell service, so it was only fitting that we read  Moon of the Crusted Snow aloud one rainy day. Though I wish it was Waub himself reading us the audiobook, I did my best to make an experience out of it."

Community overcomes adversity

"In two sittings, we stepped into a very fitting scene. The story follows a remote community that awakens one day to find their new and modern amenities, community infrastructure and access to the rest of the world cut off by a mysterious technology failure. At first they assumed the power, cable and phones would come back on, but slowly realized that things would not be the same. This quickly tested their self-reliance and put a big question mark (much like our own recent monopolized grid malfunction) on the capabilities and collaborative systems of the community.

Through the guidance of elders, love and community spirit, the old and simple ways of our people once again began to ring true.

"Yet, through the guidance of elders, love and community spirit, the old and simple ways of our people once again began to ring true. Through a grueling winter of rationing, keeping fires lit, listening to teachings, reclaiming language, certain death and survival, the community learned of the turmoil in the south — just as a stranger enters the scene to cause further disruption to their shared value system.

"I hope other folks read Waub's book — he's a modern-day storyteller and community leader. I can't wait for the sequel!"

Listen | Ombiigizi plays the 2022 CBC Music Junofest Indigenous Artist Showcase:

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