Gord Downie on the Onakawana River in Moosonee.  – Photo by Pam Tozer

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, on behalf of the Executive Council, has issued the following statement following the passing of legendary musician Gord Downie:

“Words cannot express our sorrow and our thoughts and prayers are with Gord’s brothers Mike and Patrick, and all of their family and friends. My dear friend took the country by storm last year with his heartfelt call to action, and exposed dark truths about this country like no one before him. I have been deeply moved by Gord’s work with the Wenjack family to bring the history of the Indian Residential School system to a national audience. Gord restored the dignity and innocence of a little boy who only wanted to go home, and we have been humbled by his determination to share the story of Chanie and all of our youth who never made it home. We will forever be touched by Gord’s compassion and commitment to guide us along the path to reconciliation. Gord knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I pray that my friend has inspired us all to get moving.”

Grand Chief Fiddler was with Gord Downie when he launched his Secret Path multi-media project in Marten Falls First Nation on September 9, 2016. It marked the 50th anniversary of the death of 12-year-old Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, who died on October 22, 1966 after fleeing Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in northwestern Ontario. Travelling on foot in an attempt to make the 1,000-kilometre journey home to Ogoki Post, his body was found on October 23 along railroad tracks approximately 60 kilometres from the school near Kenora, Ontario.

The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund was established as a catalyst to jumpstart reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

Downie was honoured with the Lakota spirit name “Wicapi Omani” or “He Who Walks Amongst the Stars” at the Assembly of First Nations national assembly last December.