Several communities along the James Bay Ice Road were treated with a special visit to their high schools by musicians Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet of Whitehorse in early March. Students at Vezina Secondary School in Attawapiskat, ON; Francine J. Wesley Secondary School in Kashechewan, ON and Delores D. Echum Composite School in Moose Factory, ON were able to hear the band perform and ask questions of them and their involvement with the Gord Downie & Chaine Wenjack Fund Artist Ambassador program. The Legacy Schools High School Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians and other artists into high schools across Canada to inspire student leadership and forward the journey of reconciliation in school communities.
Once landed in Attawapiskat, the band and DWF staff went for a delicious lunch at Adrian Sutherland’s (of the band Midnight Shine, another Artist Ambassador) restaurant “The Moose Takeout”.
Students interviewed Whitehorse and took videos and photos for their art class, and were encouraged to ask questions. Two of the most popular questions by students for Whitehorse were, “Who is older?” and “How much money do you make as musicians?”.
In the afternoon, Whitehorse played a schoolwide concert in the gym. Following this, students got to try out Luke’s white Falcon guitar and take photos with the band. That evening, Whitehorse put on a community show at Kattawapiskat Elementary School, a school that was built after Shannen Koostachin and her peers launched the Students Helping Students campaign. The campaign was created in response to the government backing away from building a new elementary school in Attawapiskat for the third time in 2007.
Following an incredible day in Attawapiskat, Clarence Carpenter of the Attawapiskat First Nation Education Authority, drove Whitehorse and DWF along the James Bay Ice Road to Kashechewan to visit students at Francine J. Wesley Secondary School.
Students from music, English, and art classes met in the library to participate in the Artist Ambassador visit. Whitehorse had two sessions with students, during which they performed a rendition of “I Will Not Be Struck” – the same song they performed at Secret Path Live in October 2019 in Toronto. They chatted with students about what it meant to them to be part of that night and to be part of building Gord and Chanie’s legacy. Students got to check out the guitars and play a few chords, while other students took photos and videos as part of a workshop.
While driving down the James Bay Ice Road, the band encountered a group of people walking. Jasmine Koostachin, a member of Fort Albany First Nation, was walking a 150 km protest of the escalating drug problems within the northern communities.
Jasmine shared that she had a spiritual awakening, and felt the need to do the walk for her own healing and pray for her people who are struggling. She shared that each community has a need for local facilities rather than having to travel to urban areas where they may be at risk or exposed to harder drugs. Each day someone walked with her; Elders, relatives and community members.
In Moose Factory, a visit to Delores D. Echum High School started with a tour through the school with Principal Don Cheechoo. He showed us the robotics lab, woodworking shop (where students were making a canoe), and the mechanics shop where snowmobiles, cars and small engines get worked on. The school has an attendance program where students make Mahekum dollars when they maintain good attendance. The dollars can be used at the school store to buy things such as water bottles, school shirts, school supplies and if you save enough, a new computer or a bicycle. It’s made a noticeable increase in attendance and students learn the power of saving. Local Elders teach beading and cooking in the school, and the school’s freezer was filled with game such as goose, beaver and moose.
During the Artist Ambassador session, grade 8 students heard more about Chanie’s story, Gord’s passion and how Whitehorse became involved. This time students were able to contribute to the songs playing drums and egg shakers. Check the LIVE session Whitehorse shared on Facebook to hear the amazing rhythm section by students. Some of the students took part in a video workshop and were able to film the session for their school.
Whitehorse performed a community concert that evening at the JBEC auditorium which is attached to Moosonee Public School. Curry Gray’s grade 9 students at Northern Lights High School (and DWF Legacy School) had made all of the community concert posters for the event. Luke and Melissa were happy to be able to sign the posters and return them to the talented students who made them. Tameira, a student at Northern Lights High School also took photographs throughout the evening as the concert photographer. Grade 8 students also took part, selling delicious baked goods to raise money for their school trip during the show. Rob Faries of Relic Kings opened for Whitehorse along with Toxic Bay (a local band that played covers of Metallica and Alice in Chains), Curry Gray and the Poets (a Tragically Hip cover band that translates songs into Cree). After the show, Whitehorse signed autographs and took photos with community members.
Stan Kapashesit, Director of Economic Development for the Moose Cree First Nation treated DWF and Whitehorse to a tour of the community. He took the group to Hudson Bay House, the Cree Cultural Centre, the old Cold War military base and to the grounds where the residential school once stood. The fence remains at the site, and at the top of the fence you can see where the barbed wire once ran, but instead of turned out, it’s turned in to ensure children didn’t try to escape.
The trip ended with some of the group attending one of the James Bay Community Cup Tournament hockey games. It was a close game between Attawapiskat and Moose Factory, and the group was able to reunite with some of the students from the previous school visits.
Overall, it was an extraordinary experience. We are grateful for the journey and all the wonderful people who welcomed us into their schools and community. Chi miigwetch, thank you!
Late January, Mike Downie joined DWF staff in visiting several Legacy Schools; Linwood Public School, Kitchener-Waterloo Vocational & Collegiate Institute (KCI), Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) and Ryerson Public School in Cambridge. Every Legacy School begins the journey to understanding our shared Canadian history from a different place – be it location, age, knowledge – and it was a truly beautiful experience to have the opportunity to visit elementary, middle, and high school students to learn where they are in their journeys. Conversations were had about the great initiatives students and teachers have been doing, and Mike shared stories about how the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund came to be, the development of Secret Path, and what it means to see the important work being done by students. As Mike stated, “Gord knew we needed to get into schools.”
Linwood, Ontario – a shared David Martin Mennonite community just outside of Toronto – was our first stop. Mr. Piva’s grade 8 class at Linwood Public School greeted Mike Downie with exuberance and kindness that showed how enjoyable learning can be. Students were happy to share the work they’d been doing in understanding the connections between World War II internment camps and residential schools. Mike was treated to a beautiful rendition of the song “The Stranger” from Secret Path, and a few students shared their written responses to the Secret Path graphic novel, showcasing empathy and a desire for change. Students then presented Mike and the Fund with all sorts of handmade gifts, along with stunning wooden artwork which Mr. Piva himself created.
Next, we went to Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute (KCI) where staff and students from Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) joined us for lunch, eager to share all of the amazing things they have been doing. Students and educators went around the round table sharing reconciliACTIONs and personal stories of what reconciliation and this journey meant to them. The dedication to ensure that Indigenous perspectives and knowledge is engrained throughout all curriculum throughout the year was abundantly apparent. The drama teacher at WCI showed us an amazing play her students created, combining Phyllis Webstad and Chanie Wenjack’s residential school stories. During Secret Path Week, the physical education classes beat the collective Walk For Wenjack challenge to walk 600km in honour of Chanie, walking over 1600km. Students in French class are now able to choose Indigenous studies under the french umbrella. And one young student, upon learning about residential schools and the ongoing trauma, was some moved he immediately took action to “Do Something”. He initiated a fundraiser to help a local Indigenous group work for clean water in Six Nations. This same student, once learning of our upcoming visit, took up another collection that he happily presented to Mike for DWF. The stories and energy shared were truly incredible. A huge thank you to Ms. Allinotte for organizing such an amazing group on short notice and providing us with a wonderful lunch.
Our last stop was at Ryerson Public School in Cambridge to visit Ms. Gill’s amazing grade 5 students, who were the primary catalysts for this journey. Her class created art cards in December to celebrate over 40 Indigenous artists, which students then sold the cards and raised $520.00 for the Fund. Students all took turns showing us the incredible learning that was taking place at such a young age. Two students explained the artwork they designed for the classroom door depicting Gord and Chanie. We were also shown a display showcasing the seven grandfather teachings, walls that highlighted teaching about treaties and wampums, a display in which students debated whether they should rename their school after learning who Egerton Ryerson is, and individual displays that showcased important figures in Canada’s Indigenous history. It was truly impressive! We were then treated to the grade 3 class sharing what they were learning about important Indigenous medicines like sage, tobacco, cedar, and sweetgrass.
It was a truly special day. Thank you so much to all of the fantastic teachers that go above and beyond to make education engaging and important, and for preparing our future leaders to be kind and knowledgeable. Mike Downie was incredibly impressed and inspired, his brother would be proud.
In 2016 Jesse Thistle, a Metis-Cree bestselling author, had the honour of meeting Gord Downie by chance one night in Toronto. Jesse was able to share with Gord the wonderful work he was doing at the time around intergenerational trauma.
He remembers talking to Gord, “I thanked him for the work that he was doing on reconciliation and for making the nation aware of residential schools and Indigenous history, and that these issues now had more focus because of his efforts. He thanked me for the work that I was doing on intergenerational trauma and Métis History. He also said he was doing his best and he knows he might get some things wrong, but he’s trying and that’s what counts.”
Jesse, a Vanier and Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholar and PhD candidate, continues his work in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. His latest book From the Ashes was voted as one of the best books of 2019.
We are honoured to have Jesse join our Artist Ambassador program, visiting schools and continuing Gord’s work calling on all of us to “Do Something”. The Legacy Schools High School Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians and other artists like Jesse into high schools across Canada to inspire student leadership and forward the journey of reconciliation in school communities.
Artists share their art, music and stories through workshops and/or performances, and engage students in learning and conversations about reconciliation. High schools hosting Artist Ambassadors are also encouraged to have students share their own stories, art, and reconciliACTIONs with their guests.
This year we will be organizing 17 visits with schools throughout Canada. Last year seven schools took part in our pilot program and enjoyed visits from:
Adrian Sutherland of Midnight Shine – Humberside C.I. – Toronto, ON
Angela Miracle Gladue (Dancer, A Tribe Called Red) – Peterborough Alternative Education Centre (PACE) – Peterborough, ON
Arkells – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School – Ottawa
DJ KooKum – G.P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, British Columbia
Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers – Montessori School – Dundas, ON
July Talk, North Vancouver District School Board, Vancouver, B.C.
Tyler Shaw – Sir Fredrick Banting Secondary School – London, ON
Above: The Arkells are given a tour of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School by student leaders in Ottawa during the pilot program in 2018-2019.
If you are interested in having Jesse visit your school please sign up for the artist ambassador program here.
Classes that request a visit from an author will be required to read the author’s work prior to a visit. Jesse’s new book From the Ashes is available at bookstores everywhere! Legacy School educators receive a 10% discount from Goodminds.com.
We are happy to be able to provide you all with access to the in-class, interactive sessions that took place at Exploring by The Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP) for Secret Path Week. DWF would like to extend a very special thanks to Joe Grabowski at EBTSOYP for hosting all of the sessions and organizing the speakers.
This year for Secret Path Week, EBTSOYP held conversations to inspire Indigenous education and forward reconciliation. They featured live events for classrooms featuring Indigenous scientists, artists and leaders. This was a valuable way to engage Legacy School classes in reconciliation and encourage students and educators to “Do Something“!
On the first day, the initial four events had over 1,200 students join in live on camera – those numbers don’t even take into account the classrooms that viewed the events live on YouTube and the recorded versions afterwards! Thank you all for tuning in!
As Legacy Schools, you can still take advantage of these great sessions by watching the recorded sessions with your class. All speakers are listed below with a link to their session;
Secret Path Events
Mike Downie | Documentary Filmmaker & Co-founder of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
Mike Downie is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker and the co-founder of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. One story, in particular, has been life-changing for Mike was Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibway boy who died while running away from his residential school. Downie told the tragic tale to his brother Gord and the two vowed to find a way to share this story with the world. The result was the multi-media project Secret Path that has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians across the country. Mike is a writer, director, and producer of numerous award-winning documentaries including Secret Path, Invasion of the Brain Snatchers, One Ocean, and The Hockey Nomad.
Andrea Jane Reid | Indigenous Scientist and Conservation Biologist
Andrea Reid is an Indigenous fisheries scientist and conservation biologist based in Canada. In January 2021, she will be joining the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries as an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Fisheries Science. Andrea combines ecological and social science methodologies, adopting an integrative approach to complex fisheries questions. She belongs to the Nisga’a Nation on British Columbia’s North Coast and has significant experience with Indigenous fisheries communities, practices, perspectives and issues in British Columbia as well as around the world (East Africa, Oceania and Southeast Asia).
Angela Miracle Gladue | Dancer and Beadwork Artist
Angela Miracle Gladue aka Lunacee, is a Cree/Greek Mother, Dancer and Beadwork Artist from Frog Lake First Nation, who started cultural dancing (metis & powwow) at age 6 and continued her dance career as a hip hop artist since 2003. She has been invited to perform, teach and speak to countless countries throughout out the world and now tours as one of the lead dancers for A Tribe Called Red. A few of Angela’s major accomplishments include: Choreographing and performing at the 2017 Juno Awards, First Place at the Canadian Hip Hop Championships and World Hip-Hop Championship Bronze Medalist with her crew the FlyGirlz, and recipient of the 2015 Chief David Crowchild Memorial Youth Award for demonstrating outstanding community leadership through hip hop and Powwow dance. She has also opened up for major recording artists such as TLC, Sean Paul, Lil’Kim, Maestro, Grand Master Flash and Busta Rhymes to name a few.
Aaron Yazzie | Mechanical Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
He designs, builds, and tests robotic systems to acquire samples of rocks and soil from other planets so that we can study them for science. He has had roles on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover Mission and the InSight Mars Lander. Currently, he is developing the drill bits that will be used on the Mars 2020 Rover. Aaron is Navajo, originally from a small town near the border of the Navajo Nation.
Chantal Pronteau | Guardian Watchman and Steward
Chantal has been a Kitasoo/Xai’xais Guardian Watchman since 2015. Her jurisdiction encompasses about 1,500 square miles of inlets, which cut through a folding screen of gunpowder-grey mountains speckled with trees, and which provide habitat for bears, seals, and whales. She gets to spend most of her time outdoors in the Great Bear Rainforest—doing everything from compliance monitoring on local waterways to collecting hair samples from grizzly bears in the region. In addition to her work as a Guardian Watchman, she was one of 14 students to graduate from the Stewardship Technicians Training Program, a training initiative co-led by Coastal First Nations and Vancouver Island University. As a Guardian Watchman, Chantal likes to focus on building bridges between people and communities.
Theland Kicknosway | Singer, Drummer and Grass Hoop Dancer
Theland Kicknosway is a strong Indigenous Youth, he is Wolf Clan, Potawatami/Cree Nation, a registered member of Walpole Island -Bkejwanong Territory in Southern Ontario. He is a singer, a grass & hoop dancer, and helps in ceremonies in many places. He is in High School in the Ottawa Region where he is a part of many sports teams. He enjoys offering his gifts of song/dance/voice for all. He is known as the Cree Drummer when he sang and hand drummed an honor song for the incoming Prime Minister of Canada and his new cabinet members swearing in ceremony in Nov 2015. He helped drum in the Indian Residential School Survivors In the Ottawa region in 2008 and in the closing of the TRC June 1st, 2015. In spring 2018 he completed his 4th annual run in partnership with Families of Sisters in Spirit-134 km per run- raising awareness to the children left behind of MMIWG2S. In 2018 he became the youngest Indspire Award Recipient under Culture, Heritage & Spirituality of the 25 yr History of the Inspire and Achievement Awards.
Adrian Sutherland | Midnight Shine
Adrian Sutherland is from the Mushkegowuk Cree community of Attawapiskat, situated on the coast of the James Bay in Northern Ontario. He is a singer/songwriter and frontman for the band Midnight Shine, making ‘radio-friendly’ music that draws upon his own personal experiences, while reflecting universal themes like family, home, love and loss. In addition to making contemporary rock music, Sutherland – who is fluent in Cree – is a traditional knowledge keeper. He takes part in ceremonies, participates in spring and fall harvests, sings pow wow, and is a genuine example of someone who lives authentically and pays homage to his culture. He is a father, grandfather, and hard-working husband, proud of who he is, and where he comes from.
Jessica Perritt | Scientist from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization
Jessica is the Sr. Advisor of Indigenous Knowledge at the NWMO and has been instrumental in creating the NWMO’s Indigenous Knowledge policy, upcoming Reconciliation Policy, and liaising with the Council of Elders and Youth. She is member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and a proud Anishnawbekwe (Ojibway women). Her formal education is within western science majoring in Physics and Mathematics and has also received Indigenous education from Elders and knowledge keepers throughout her life. Jessica has brought respect for Indigenous knowledge and worldview to life at the NWMO and her next big project is helping the NWMO take further steps towards its journey in reconciliation, a true example for the rest of Canada.
Micheal Vegh | Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance
Q̓án̓ístisḷa (Michael Vegh) is a Heiltsuk environmental steward. He works at Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, where he provides technical support for the Marine Planning Partnership, as well as Indigenous Laws coordination. Michael is passionate about working towards greater Indigenous-led management, especially in the form of Indigenous Protected Areas. Michael has also received ministerial appointment to the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Expert Group at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Michael truly believes that indigenous philosophies and ways of knowing are paramount to finding a more sustainable paradigm in our era of climate change.
Phyllis Webstad | Orange Shirt Day
Every year on September 30th, we wear orange shirts to honour residential school survivors. Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at residential school, told for the first time in May 2013. It has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. Phyllis published her first children’s book called “The Orange Shirt Story” which aims to bring communities together.
Mair Greenfield | Rumie Initiative
Mair Greenfield was born and raised in North Bay, Ontario. She is a member of Kebaowek First Nation. Mair has worked alongside Indigenous families and communities for more than a decade in different areas, such as corrections, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools, Community Service-Learning, mentorship, and volunteer initiatives. Mair began her work with The Rumie Initiative in 2016 and is now the Director of Indigenous Programs. Rumie is a not-for-profit tech start-up with a vision of a world where everyone has access to quality learning. Rumie consists of a small team who build their own software and hardware and also host a no-cost digital learning repository called the LearnCloud which is accessible to anyone. Rumie partners with Indigenous communities and resource creators to reach remote areas and schools that have little to no Internet access or digital learning resources. Rumie supports communities to create custom made digital libraries that they can access completely offline through Rumie technology and suit Indigenous learners and community programs. Mair volunteers with communities on a personal level to support Indigenous language preservation efforts.
Chrisann Hessing | Filmmaker
Chrisann is a documentary filmmaker based in Toronto. She has combined her love of travel and storytelling to produce award-winning short films that have screened around the world. Her work reflects themes of identity and community and generally challenges common perceptions, especially relating to underrepresented groups and minorities. Her most recent film, TURNING TABLES, premiered at Hot Docs in 2018 and won Best Documentary Short at the 43rd American Indian Film Festival.
Brad Baker & Sarah Mazzei | Educator
Brad is a proud member of the Squamish Nation and carries the ancestral name Tsnomot, which he shares with his late grandfather and father. Brad has been an educator for 27 years in the North Vancouver School District. For the last 8 years, his position has been District Principal with the portfolios of Indigenous Education, Careers, and Safe and Caring Schools. Brad was recently selected to the 2017 Governor General of Canada’s Leadership Council. He was 1 of 250 leaders from across Canada that came together to develop strategies on how to move Canada forward in the next 150 years. Brad was the recipient of the Indspire Guiding the Journey National Award for Leadership in Indigenous Education in 2014. One of Brad’s mottos is for all of us to understand “Truth Before Reconciliation” and to “Go Forward With Courage.” We will focus on how Secret Path can be used as a tool to enhance the learning environment for all learners when it comes to understanding the role of Indian Residential Schools in Canada’s history.
Rena Priest | Writer and Explorer
Rena Priest is a 2019 National Geographic Explorer, a Writer, and a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Her debut book, Patriarchy Blues, garnered a 2018 American Book Award and her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was selected as the finalist for the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Her current project follows regional efforts to restore health and habitability to the Salish Sea for the benefit of critically endangered Southern Resident Qwel Lhol Mech Ten (Killer Whales) and wild chinook salmon. Priest’s work can be found in literary journals and anthologies including For Love of Orcas, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Collateral Journal.
What is Exploring by The Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP)?
Each month during the school year, EBTSOYP hosts 25+ live video events for classrooms.
They regularly host full-day, week and month events covering themes like oceans, biodiversity, women in science, space exploration, ocean plastics, and climate change.
EBTSOYP sends textbook-sized satellite BGAN units around the world with scientists and explorers so that they can video broadcast into classrooms from the most remote regions of the planet. This gives schools the opportunity to follow and connect with exciting expeditions around the world.
Secret Path Live was an incredibly moving and impactful night for so many people, made even more special thanks to the generous support of the Buy One, Give One (BOGO) ticket purchasers. The BOGO ticket included one complimentary ticket for a Legacy School student or Indigenous youth who could not otherwise afford to attend the show. Through their generous support over 100 students and educators were able to attend, with five groups travelling over 1000km to attend.
Students came from:
- Dennis Franklin Cromarty – Thunder Bay, Ontario (1345 KM to Toronto)
- Fort McLeod – Blackfoot First Nation, Fort McLead, Alberta (3648 KM from Toronto)
- Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School, Toronto, Ontario
- Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School, Kitchener, Ontario
- North Spirit Lake First Nation – Ontario (1392 kilometers from Toronto)
- Pictou First Nation – Nova Scotia (1,610.8 km to Toronto)
- Saugeen First Nation – Ontario (226.5 KM from Toronto)
- Venina Secondary School – Attawapiskat, Ontario (1,054 km from Toronto)
When the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) realized how many people were willing to travel great distances to bring students to the show, we knew we needed to provide an opportunity for the students to meet one another. A student “meet and greet” took place prior to the show across the street from Roy Thomson Hall. Students played games, ate pizza, and shared their stories. Students also took turns pinning their names to a map of Canada to show just how far everyone had travelled to attend this special night. For many students attending this was not only their first concert but also their first night away from home. In some cases, it was their first night to ever leave their community.
Some of the artists performing later that evening surprised the students, taking the opportunity to visit and connect with them. Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene/Secret Path Band), Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay (July Talk) and Johnny Fay (The Tragically Hip) all stopped by to welcome the youth to Toronto and to the Secret Path Live concert.
The original Secret Path band; Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Dave Hamelin (The Stills), and Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think) performed Secret Path with special guests Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tanya Tagaq, Serena Ryder, July Talk, William Prince, Whitehorse, Sam Roberts, Tom Wilson, Sarah Harmer, and Andy Maize. The concert was a moving tribute to Chanie Wenjack, Gord Downie and to the thousands of children who were taken from their homes and forced to attend residential schools.
The evening and the experience would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors and BOGO ticket holders. Miigwech, thank you to everyone who made this night a reality!
Student and educator testimonials;
We attended the concert yesterday and for us, it was amazing. It was not just the music – it also left a few questions and curiosity in our mind. We are trying to gather as much information as possible about Gord Downie and his life, the reconciliation efforts, albums & more importantly about Chanie Wenjack, the little boy who have lost his life in order to go back to his family.
The kids and I want to thank you for providing a meaningful event for everyone. It is a night we will never forget. The kids had fun at the meet and greet and were deeply moved by the live performance. I was even more humbled to be a part of this amazing organization and am fired up to make a difference. We extend our gratitude to you and DWF for a memorable and powerful evening where we came together to reflect on why reconciliation is so important. Chanie and Gord’s lives have indeed inspired us to “Do Something”.
I found Secret Path Live to be a magical experience, where love and truth found its way from well-known and wonderful musicians to an audience ready for what it brought them – hope for the future.
We enjoyed the concert and how engaged they were with the crowd. Our students enjoyed the message that was shared and loved seeing the information shared down in the lobby.
The energy at the event was nothing short of magical.
Very well done! A powerful story that should be told to as many children and youth as possible – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund’s new Educator Advisory Committee met for the first time using online meeting software to connect members from throughout Canada. The meeting was the first time educators from throughout Canada gathered to discuss the Legacy Schools program and get to know one another. We are excited to have such a strong and dedicated team and look forward to improving the Legacy Schools program with their guidance and support.
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Educator Advisory Committee for Legacy Schools consists of members of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and non-Indigenous educators. They will advise on educational resources and program development for Legacy Schools to help ensure that the unique interests, rights and perspectives of Indigenous peoples are recognized and implemented in schools and communities throughout Canada. Members will also help assess and evaluate the impact of Legacy Schools, furthering DWF’s mission to improve the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education, and connections between all people in Canada.
Educator Advisory Committee Members for 2019-2021
Anishinaabe First Nation, Chanie Wenjack’s sister, Ontario
Anishinaabe First Nation, Teacher, Chanie Wenjack’s sister, Ontario
Anishinaabe First Nation, Teacher, Chanie Wenjack’s niece, DWF Board Member, Ontario
Social Worker/School Counsellor, Souris School K-6, Saskatchewan
Inuk, Teacher, Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School, Nunavut
Dakota Sioux – Standing Buffalo Saskatchewan, Teacher, Winston Knoll Collegiate, Saskatchewan
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Department of Education, Yukon
Jeffrey Kiyoshk Ross
Bkejwanong and St. Vincentian, Legacy Learning & Engagement Associate, Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, Ontario
Manager, Education & Activation, Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, Ontario
Assistant Principal, James Short Memorial (Early Development Centre, K-2), Alberta
Piapot First Nation, Teacher, Kitchener Community School (K-6), Saskatchewan
Métis, Teacher, Crescent Heights High School, Alberta
Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Director of Education, Cross Lake Education Authority, Manitoba
Tuscarora, Consultant Indigenous Education (K-8), District School Board of Niagara, Ontario
Mi’kmaq, Director of Education, Pictou Landing First Nation School, Nova Scotia
Sagkeeng First Nation, Teacher, Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, Manitoba
Teacher, St. Bonaventure School (K-6), Ontario
Lennox Island First Nations, Colonel Gray High School 9-12, Prince Edward Island
Squamish Nation, District Principal, Indigenous Education, Safe Schools and Careers,
North Vancouver School District K-12, British Columbia
Teacher, Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute 9-12, Ontario
The Educator Advisory Committee for Legacy Schools will advise current and future programs and participate in their development and quality assurance as needed. Committee members will also assist in identifying resources, including guest speakers, field placement, partnerships and various opportunities to further Legacy Schools programming.
Educator Advisory Committee members are ambassadors and liaisons between DWF, schools, students, educators and the community.
We are currently still seeking members from Nunavut, Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland. If you are from these regions you can apply here.
Appointment to the Committee is one two-year term, and when applicable, a second term may be added. Meetings will typically be held virtually two or three times per year.
Our friends at Learning Bird have created a series of free resources based on Secret Path, which tells the story of Chanie Wenjack’s flight from residential school. In honour of the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, the resources that they have created position Chanie Wenjack’s story as an opportunity to explore the topic of Indigenous languages and how they relate to Indigenous rights on a local, regional, national, and global scale.
As students complete the activities in this kit, learners will develop literacy, research, communication, and empathy skills as they learn about a variety of Indigenous languages and revitalization efforts and share what they learn with others in their communities. This kit is best suited for high school Indigenous studies, geography, English language arts, and social studies classes. Click here to find out more and to access the resources.
Is your school still planning a Walk for Wenjack? Finding a Secret Path: Mapping Activity is a great activity to do with your students before doing your walk to better understand how Chanie would have felt as he was planning his route home. During the activity, students learn that Chanie Wenjack would have had difficulty reading the English map that he took with him on his journey away from the residential school in Kenora, ON, and asked: “how do you think he felt?”. Complete your own mapping activity in class to reflect and discuss how language and language loss can affect how we find our place in the world.
Updated resources for our Legacy Schools are available online at legacyschools.ca/resources.
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is proud to say that all the schools in the Comox Valley School District are now members of our Legacy Schools program. All 23 school sites within the district will receive toolkits in preparation for the 2019-2020 school year. Not only is the whole school district now prepared to “Do Something” and create reconciliACTIONs moving forward, but some schools and students have already done great things this past year. These initial steps are important to recognize and highlight, as they helped introduce and inspire the rest of the district to become Legacy Schools, and support each other on their own path towards reconciliation. Their successes were recently highlighted in an article in their local newspaper that speaks on how well the district has come together to support Indigenous students and education.
During the 2018-2019 school year, we launched our Legacy Schools poster contest to ask students “what does reconciliation mean to you?”. Two of our winners came from the same Indigenous K/1 class at Ecole Puntledge Park. These two young artists showed that there’s no such thing as being too young to understand Indigenous history and education.
At times, both educators and parents alike may steer away from certain topics due to a feeling that the child isn’t mature enough to fully understand and appreciate the topic. Instead of shying away from the subject, teachers from Comox Valley have worked to help scaffold the topics related to our shared history, and create entry points for young students to access and learn in a safe space. If collectively we can provide the tools and support, students of any age can thrive.
In early 2019, DWF launched the pilot phase of our High School Artist Ambassador program. One of our visits was held at G.P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, B.C. DJ Kookum, an Indigenous artist, visited the school to share her story and her musical talent with the students.
The Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists into high schools across Canada to inspire student leadership and forward the journey of reconciliation in school communities. Artists share their art, music and stories through workshops and/or performances and engage students in learning and conversations about reconciliation.
DJ Kookum was an incredible ambassador who willingly shared her backstory with the students. She also showed that being an Indigenous musician doesn’t mean being confined to traditional methods, but that you can also share your story and message with any instrument – like a laptop and turntable.
Charlotte Hood-Tanner and her senior art class from Highland Secondary School took on a beautiful year end project. This project highlighted everything our Legacy Schools program is striving to encourage and promote across Canada. Charlotte noted that the students and herself had a focus “on cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.” This is an important step in the reconciliation process. To help with this, the class connected with the local K’omoks First Nation.
A key piece of their project was honouring the Indigenous K’omoks language on their posters; this ties into the United Nations proclamation that 2019 is the Year of Indigenous Languages. Providing students with the opportunity to appreciate and honour local Indigenous peoples through art is a great step forward towards reconciliation as it begins to bridge the gap between schools and communities.
We are so happy with the steps educators and students have already taken towards reconciliation. We are excited to support Comox Valley on their learning journey and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them, and what other reconciliACTIONs they will complete in the coming school year.