As we commemorate National Indigenous History Month, Mixto.ca is very excited to work with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF). Inspired by Chanie’s story and Gord’s call to build a better Canada, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. DWF’s goal is to improve the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education, and connections between all people in Canada.
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) was created out of two families coming together to make a change, uphold Chanie and Gord’s legacies, and create a pathway on the journey toward reconciliation. DWF is part of musician Gord Downie’s legacy and embodies his commitment, and that of both the Downie and Wenjack families, to call Canadians to action in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of this land.
Gord Downie was a Canadian rock musician, storyteller, and poet. He was the frontman and lyricist for the rock band The Tragically Hip from 1984 until his passing in 2017. In August of 2016, Gord asked all Canadians to look at the state of Indigenous-settler relations in this country and to “Do Something” to change them for the better.
Chanie Wenjack was born on January 19, 1954 on Marten Falls First Nation, also known as Ogoki Post, a remote Indigenous community located in Northwestern Ontario. Chanie grew up in Ogoki Post for the first nine years of his life with his parents, sisters and two dogs. At age 9, Chanie, along with three of his sisters, were sent to Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. Children from 17 reserves in Northern Ontario and Manitoba attended Cecilia Jeffrey. At the age of 12, Chanie ran away from the residential school, attempting to reunite with his family who were 600 kilometers away in Ogoki Post. He would never make it home. Chanie’s body was found on October 22, 1966, a week after he fled. In his pocket was nothing but a little glass jar with seven wooden matches. Chanie fell victim to Canada’s legacy of colonization of Indigenous Peoples. Gord Downie wrote the graphic novel and album Secret Path about Chanie’s journey.
On October 13, 2016, Gord and his brother Mike, along with Pearl (Wenjack) Achneepineskum, and the Wenjack family, announced the founding of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to support reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. DWF is a part of Gord’s legacy and commitment to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada to continue the conversation that began with the residential school stories of Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him.
The 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.
For more information visit: https://downiewenjack.ca/