An announcement today from both The Hip and Gord Downie confirm some new work coming out soon.
As we have seen recently, Gord Downie has been acknowledging the need to address many of the horrors done to aboriginal peoples in this country including Residential Schools. His shout-out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the final show of the Man Machine Poem tour regarding the beginnings of reconciliation through the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry confirmed how important this issue is to both him and this entire country.
Chanie Wenjack was a 12 year old Ojibway boy who died trying to find his way home from the local Residential school in Kenora in 1966. This story was the inspiration for this project.
Here’s the trailer:
And now we find Gord Downie not only penned ten poems on this subject but has also recorded them as songs to be released October 18th. The release is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Chanie Wenjack’s death. 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.
w/ Graphic Novel by Jeff Lemire
Deluxe Edition (Vinyl & Book)
October 18, 2016
Arts & Crafts
1. The Stranger
2. Swing Set
3. Seven Matches
4. I Will Not Be Struck
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:
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.”
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).