One of the most powerful moments from The Tragically Hip’s final show in Kingston was when lead singer Gord Downie offered a mid-set shoutout to the North.
The North, of course, was a geographical metaphor for Canada’s neglected and abused Aboriginal communities.
“What’s going on up there ain’t good,” he said, referring to “the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there.”
One of those people, whose story became the subject of a Heritage Minute earlier this year, is Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died of hunger and exposure to harsh weather when he ran away from his residential school in 1966.
Downie will commemorate Wenjack next month by releasing a solo album and graphic novel that reveals the boy’s true story.
“I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him,” the Tragically Hip frontman said in a statement Friday. “Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable.”
The project is called Secret Path and began as a series of 10 poems that were subsequently recorded as songs in 2013. The album will be released on October 18, accompanied by an 88-page graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire.