The Secret Path on Remembrance Day


From Jay at Assholes Watching Movies:

You may have noticed there was a day this summer when Canada “went dark.” It was August 20th, the day the Tragically  Hip performed for the last time. Hip lead singer, front trudeau-the-hip-concert-kingstonman extraordinaire, Canadian superstar Gord Downie had recently announced that he had a brain tumour and was terminally ill.  Since making music has always been his passion, he and the Hip went on a farewell tour and despite the ravages of cancer, he performed full-throttle at each and every show, somehow finding the energy and the courage to power through.  Their final trudeau-downiedate was in their hometown of Kingston Ontario, just a little ways down the road from Ottawa.  Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was in the front row, and spoke for all of Canada when he thanked Gord and the whole band for their decades of artistic serviced to the country. It was a stirring night. The end is coming for Gord and he knew it, you could see it in his eyes, feel it every time he was overcome by emotion, but instead of making it about him, he chose to use this spotlight (and believe me, about 32 out of our 33 million strong l3z58mkrpopulation were tuned in one way or another) to speak on behalf of Canada’s indigenous population.

Since that night, as Downie inches closer to his final days, he’s still pouring his last energies into speaking up for our Aboriginal people.  His latest endeavor is a tribute to Chanie Wenjack – in music, graphic novel, and animated form.  10 poems were turned into an album, which was turned into a graphic novel, which was turned into an animated film (above).  They all tell the story of one boy, who represents the many, many more just like him, our first nations children ripped from the arms of their mothers, out of their communities, and into residential schools.  Residential schools were run by church and state with the sole purpose of ‘civilizing’ the savages. gord-downie-sheila-north-wilson Prohibited from speaking their languages, practicing their spirituality, or honouring their cultures, teachers stripped them of their identity.  Many children suffered terrible abuse, but all of these kids were deprived of their childhoods, and all of the families suffered terribly as I’m sure you would if your child was removed, perhaps never to be seen again, or if you were lucky enough to be reunited, we can only hope that you can find a common language in which to communicate.  Communities were destroyed in what many Aboriginal people refer to as a genocide.  It’s a dark part of Canadian history that wasn’t acknowledged until very recently.  Today our First Nations peoples often live in poverty and other consequences of this intergenerational tragedy.  Healing is not an Aboriginal problem, it’s something we need to address as an entire country.  Gord Downie is doing his part.

If you are so inclined, The Secret Path can be streamed here for free (or in fact, watch on youtube above). I hope you take the time to do so, and to share it with a friend. The images are haunting, but the lyrics will punch you in the gut. I was in tears by the third track.

…Source: The Secret Path

(Remembrance Day  greetings today to my friends and relatives in Canada.. Trace)

At age nine, Wenjack and three of his sisters were sent to Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, more than 600 km away, where he was given the name “Charlie.” On October 22, 1966 near Kenora, Ontario, Chanie Wenjack died when he walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away.  Fifty years later, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie has taken Wenjack’s story and turned it into the Secret Path project, including a solo album, a graphic novel and an animated film. BACKGROUND on Chanie HERE

Wenjack has become a symbol of resistance to the power of colonization in Canada. In 1972, Indigenous students and members of Trent University’s Native Studies department lobbied for the university to name its newly built college after Wenjack.  Ultimately, a theatre in the college was named “Wenjack Theatre.”

Wenjack has inspired several artistic tributes, including the song “Charlie Wenjack” by Mi’kmaq artist Willie Dunn (1978) and the painting Little Charlie Wenjack’s Escape from Residential School by Anishinaabe artist Roy Kakegamic (2008). He has also inspired the creative works of author Joseph Boyden and filmmaker Terril Calder.

Suggested Reading

  • P. Bush,“Charlie Wenjack and the Indian Residential School System,” Presbyterian History vol. 58, no. 2 (2014): 4–5; J.S. Milloy, A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879–1986 (1999); The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (2015).



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