Gord Downie has just announced plans to release a new album and graphic novel that will depict the true story of a 12-year-old indigenous boy, who died while trying to find his way home from his residential school.
Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, who died from hunger and exposure, was found near Kenora, Ontario on October 22nd 1966. His frozen body was discovered along the railroad tracks a week after he ran away from school.
Wenjack’s death prompted the original inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools. At this time, students were being abused, manipulated, neglected and “re-programmed”. This treatment has since been deemed cultural genocide. Sadly, the last residential school for indigenous children didn’t close until 1991.
The sad story struck a chord with the Tragically Hip singer, leading him to create a solo album, graphic novel and an animated film to honour in young boy’s memory and educate Canadians on the misfortune.
The project, titled Secret Path, is set for release October 18th, to correspond with the 50th anniversary of Wenjack’s death.
In a statement made by Downie on Friday, Downie claims,
“I never knew Chanie, 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.”
On Thursday, Downie visited the boy’s family in Marten Falls, First Nation. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said on Downie’s visit:
“We are grateful for Gord’s efforts to shine much-needed light on this dark chapter of history and his humility, sincerity and artistry is matched only by his determination to tell the story of Charlie Wenjack and all youth from the residential school era, youth who never made it home.”
Wenjack’s parents were never told he had run away from the school school. They were informed of the boy’s death once a plane arrived near their home, carrying his body.
Read Gord Downie’s full statement below.
— Gord Downie (@gorddownie) September 9, 2016
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