Gord Downie remembered by man who gifted him eagle feather when AFN honoured him for reconciliation efforts
Tearful singer was hailed for his work highlighting the impact of residential schools in Canada
"He's just totally superhuman."
That's the way Don Speidel remembered former Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie, who he met and to whom he gifted an eagle feather during the singer's naming ceremony with the Assembly of First Nations in December 2016.
Speidel said before he met Downie, he knew the man and his band through pop culture, hearing his songs on the radio and such. However, getting to meet the singer in person was a special experience.
"He was so interested in people. He took time for people and made people feel at ease," Speidel said. "We had an instant connection."
"We called each other friends, called each other brother," he said.
Speidel spent about 45 minutes with the singer before the ceremony, which was held during the AFN's annual winter assembly in Gatineau, Que.
"What we felt in that room, it was amazing," he said of the ceremony. "It will probably be one of my greatest memories and highlights, next to my children being born."
The feather Speidel gave Downie was attached to a hat band which was then placed on the singer's signature hat. Downie wore the feather afterwards and it showed that he was an ally of Indigenous people, Speidel said.
Going into the ceremony, he was emotional because he knew Downie "may be called home way earlier than he should've."
Downie, who had been battling brain cancer, died Tuesday night after being diagnosed in early 2016.
When asked how he felt about the singer's death, Speidel said: "I think it's more of a celebration — because I had a chance to meet him. I'll cherish that time."
During the last months of his life, Downie spoke out in support of Indigenous people, and was known as a proponent of reconciliation.
To Speidel, the man was more than just an advocate.
"I think he was a conduit or a Godsend of some kind."
With files from Bridget Yard