Gord Downie’s solo project “Secret Path”

“Tragically Hip” frontman and unofficial Canadian poet laureate Gord Downie recently announced some new work coming out soon.

As many of you know, Gord Downie has been very active in bringing awareness to the plights that Canada has put its First Nations people, especially in its use of Residential Schools. “Secret Path” is a project which was inspired by Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year old Ojibway boy, who died trying to find his way home from a local Residential school in Kenora in 1966.

Gord Downie created ten poems on this subject and recorded them as songs to be released October 18th which is the 50th anniversary of Chanie Wenjack’s death. An accompanying graphic novel was created by comic artist Jeff Lemire (Essex County, Sweet Tooth).

In addition there will be a CBC special aired Sunday, October 23rd at 9pm, commercial-free on CBC. You can read the CBC statement here.

Proceeds from this project with be donated to the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba.

Release info:

Gord Downie
Secret Path
w/ Graphic Novel by Jeff Lemire
Deluxe Edition (Vinyl & Book)
October 18, 2016
Arts & Crafts

Side A:

1. The Stranger
2. Swing Set
3. Seven Matches
4. I Will Not Be Struck
5. Son

Side B:

1. Secret Path
2. Don’t Let This Touch You
3. Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them
4. The Only Place To Be
5. Here, Here and Here

Here’s a copy of the statement:

STATEMENT BY GORD DOWNIE
Ogoki Post, Ontario
September 9, 2016 Mike Downie introduced me to Chanie Wenjack; he gave me the story from Ian Adam’s Maclean’s magazine story dating back to February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.” Chanie was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to walk home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor know how to find it, but, like so many kids – more than anyone will be able to imagine – he tried. I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him. Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. “White” Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it; it was hardly ever mentioned.
All of those Governments, and all of those Churches, for all of those years, misused themselves. They hurt many children. They broke up many families. They erased entire communities. It will take seven generations to fix this. Seven. Seven is not arbitrary. This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder. Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are.
I am trying in this small way to help spread what Murray Sinclair said, “This is not an aboriginal problem. This is a Canadian problem. Because at the same time that aboriginal people were being demeaned in the schools and their culture and language were being taken away from them and they were being told that they were inferior, they were pagans, that they were heathens and savages and that they were unworthy of being respected — that very same message was being given to the non-aboriginal children in the public schools as well…They need to know that history includes them.” (Murray Sinclair, Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2015)
I have always wondered why, even as a kid, I never thought of Canada as a country – It’s not a popular thought; you keep it to yourself – I never wrote of it as so. The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.”
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.
The ten song album will be released by Arts & Crafts accompanied by Lemire’s eighty-eight page graphic novel published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Secret Path will arrive on October 18, 2016, in a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.
Proceeds will be donated to the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba.
Downie’s music and Lemire’s illustrations have inspired The Secret Path, an animated film to be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).
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