Hard to believe that we’re in mid-October already, but Secret Path Week is just around the corner.
Started in 2017, Secret Path Week honours the lives of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy born in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve. Downie dedicated the last year of his life shining a light on the story of Chanie, who was taken from his family in 1963, at 9 years old, and sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. After three years of horrible treatment and unable to see his family or acknowledge his culture, Chanie ran away, attempting to make it the 600 kilometers home. Unfortunately, tragically, he died a week later on the railroad tracks, succumbing to starvation and exposure.
Secret Path Week, now in its third year, takes place between October 17 and 22, acknowledging the dates Downie and Chanie “joined the spirit world,” the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) states.
In the past few years, there have been concerts, tribute shows, symbolic Walk for Wenjack events to help Chanie get home to his family, and more; due to COVID-19, all activities have been shifted online this year.
People are still encouraged to do their own Walk for Wenjack, by themselves or in socially distant groups, and to consider creating a reconciliACTION to keep the conversation going about Residential Schools, which existed in Canada from the 1880s through 1996.
What counts as a reconciliACTION? It’s “a meaningful action that moves reconciliation forward. ReconciliACTIONs aim to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the spirit of reconciliation to create awareness, share and learn. It is the answer to Gord’s call to ‘Do Something’; do something to raise further awareness, do something that improves the lives of Indigenous people, do something that improves the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. ReconciliACTIONs act as the catalyst for important conversations and meaningful change, recognizing that change starts with every one of us and each person can make an impact,” DWF says.
Wilson and Sainte-Marie were both part of the very special Secret Path Live concert last October, which is being made available to watch for the first time online – an event dubbed ‘Return to Secret Path Live’. Donations are encouraged; people who register will have access to the concert, taped at Roy Thomson Hall, through the whole week.
“This year, Walk for Wenjack and Return to Secret Path Live help us feel connected as we continue the work to forward the path toward reconciliation” says Sarah Midanik, president & CEO of DWF “We are so grateful for everyone across Canada joining us in the virtual events and answering Gord’s call to ‘Do Something’ this Secret Path Week.”
People who still want to Walk for Wenjack are welcomed to do so and help raise money for DWF. More information on how to register as an individual or team is available here.