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Kamsack Comprehensive students participate in Secret Path Week

Secret Path Week is a national movement, commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, that encourages actions towards reconciliation.
After learning about the death of Chanie Wenjack, a First Nation youth who died in 1966 in an attempt to go home from an Ontario residential school, and the efforts of the late Gord Downie, who was the front man for The Tragically Hip popular music band, students of the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute undertook a walk in Wenjack’s name on Oct. 21 to help spread the need for reconciliation.

KAMSACK — Students of the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute are “continuing on our journey to reconciliation” by learning about Secret Path Week, participating in a walk and collecting donations for the Downie Wenjack Fund.

Secret Path Week is a national movement commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, and takes place annually from Oct. 17-22, said information on the Secret Path Week website. “This is a meaningful week as Oct. 17 and 22 respectively mark the dates that Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack joined the spirit world.

“We call on all people in Canada to use Secret Path Week to answer Gord Downie’s call to action, to ‘Do Something’” by creating a ‘reconciliACTION’ and furthering the conversation about the history of residential schools.”

Organizers of Secret Path Week urged students to walk for Wenjack “to honour Chanie’s legacy’ and raise awareness of the true history of residential schools.

“Inspired by Chanie’s story and Gord’s call to build a better Canada, the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” the information said. “Our goal is to improve the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education, and connections between all peoples in Canada.”

Organized by a dedicated team of volunteers and champions, Walk for Wenjack is a grassroots event that started in 2016, the information said. The first walk retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack, starting at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont., and continued to Redditt, Ont. for a ceremony representing Chanie’s final resting spot near Farlane, Ont.

Since then, Walk for Wenjack has provided Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada with the opportunity to participate in Secret Path Week in a meaningful way, it said.  

“The aim of ReconciliACTION to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the spirit of reconciliation to create awareness, share, and learn,” the information said. “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.”

Gord Downie was a Canadian rock singer-songwriter, musician, writer and activist. He was the lead singer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, which he fronted from its formation in 1984 until his death in 2017.

“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,” Downie said in 2016. “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,” Downie said. “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.”

Downie said that he is trying to help spread what Murray Sinclair said.

“This is not an aboriginal problem. This is a Canadian problem,” Downie said, quoting Sinclair, a former member of the Canadian Senate and First Nations lawyer who served as chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2009 to 2015.

“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,” Sinclair had said. “They need to know that history includes them.”