Finding the Secret Path

I had recently finished listening to Tanya Talaga's Massey Lectures, when this documentary popped in my Itunes movie store. What an amazing legacy for Gord Downy, and an inspiring act of Reconciliation. For anyone who has not seen, heard or read Gord Downey's "The Secret Path", please follow the links below. All Canadians need to learn the story of Chanie Wenjack.





"Finding the Secret Path" Documentary



"Finding the Secret Path documents Downie's efforts to bring the story of Chanie Wenjack to the national stage to raise awareness of the painful legacy of Canada's residential school system. Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishnaabe boy, died while trying to escape a residential school in northern Ontario in 1966. The documentary includes reflections by the Wenjack family and Indigenous leaders, including AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and former Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North." CBC



"The Secret Path" Animated Movie

"The Secret Path is an animated film adaptation of Gord Downie's album and Jeff Lemire's graphic novel. Working with Downie's poetry and music, Lemire has created a powerful visual representation of the life of Chanie Wenjack. The film is divided into ten chapters, each a song from Downie's musical retelling of Chanie's story – from his escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, to his subsequent and heartbreaking death from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. The final product is a uniquely immersive emotional experience - an insight into the life of a little boy who, as Gord has said, he never knew, "but will always love."

from The Secret Path website



The Secret Path book

STATEMENT BY JEFF LEMIRE "I first met Gord Downie and his brother Mike back in the winter of 2014. They wanted to discuss a potential project and, over coffee, they told me the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack. Gord was then in the final stages of recording his incredible songs based on Chanie’s life and he shared the rough mixes with me in the hopes that I would be interested in creating a graphic novel to accompany his album. Before we left the coffee shop I knew I was going to do it. I had to. Chanie’s story is one that will not let you go once you hear it. It’s a story that can’t be ignored. And yet, somehow, it has been ignored. By nearly all of us.

"Growing up white in Southern Ontario, I never learned about Chanie Wenjack or about any of the tens of thousands of other indigenous children like him who were part of Canada’s residential school system. This is such a massive part of our country’s history, yet our schools didn’t teach us about it. Why? Maybe because it’s easier to live with ourselves if we pretend stories like Chanie’s never happened. But they did happen, and still happen. Chanie Wenjack lived and died, and no one knows his story.

"I’ve spent the last three years living with Chanie’s story and living inside Gord’s music. Gord’s haunting songs introduced me to Chanie Wenjack. Music is universal. It crosses languages and cultures and speaks to everyone, and I’ve always felt the medium of comics could do the same. It’s our hope that one day Secret Path will be taught in schools and that it will help to shed a light on this all too often ignored part of Canada’s past. I think, above all else, that’s what Gord and I wanted to create: something that can’t be ignored. Every Canadian should know Chanie Wenjack’s name and I hope Secret Path helps to make that a reality."

from The Secret Path website


The Secret Path album


"Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

The stories Gord’s poems tell were fleshed into the ten songs of Secret Path with producers Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin. Recording took place over two sessions at the Bathouse in Bath, Ontario, November and December 2013. The music features Downie on vocals and guitars, with Drew and Hamelin playing all other instruments, except guest contributions by Charles Spearin (bass), Ohad Benchetrit (lap steel/guitar), Kevin Hearn (piano), and Dave “Billy Ray” Koster (drums).

"In winter 2014, Gord and Mike brought the recently finished music to comic artist Jeff Lemire for his help illustrating Chanie’s story, bringing him and the many children like him to life.

"Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history – the long-supressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system – with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation."

from The Secret Path website


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