Thunder Bay

First Nations leaders 'honoured and humbled' by Gord Downie's support

The name of an Indian residential school student who died 50 years ago was trending on Twitter yesterday as news broke of Gord Downie's latest project devoted to the boy.

'Anyone else wish their heart was as big?' Canadians respond to Gord Downie's Secret Path

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie takes part in a ceremony at Marten Falls First Nation in northern Ontario with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson. (Nishnawbe Aski Nation/Twitter)

The name of an Indian residential school student who died 50 years ago was trending on Twitter Friday as news broke of Gord Downie's latest project devoted to the boy.

Chanie Wenjack was 12 years old when he died after running away from residential school in Kenora, Ont., in search of his family.

On Friday, the Tragically Hip lead singer announced his latest solo project, Secret Path — a multimedia package including an album, a graphic novel and an animated movie — all about Wenjack's tragic story.

First Nations leaders expressed gratitude to Downie for the recognition of the legacy of residential schools and his call for all Canadians to learn the stories of the thousands of children who died there.

"I am honoured and humbled to support the Secret Path project," Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said in a news release, while tweeting out several photos of her trip to Wenjack's home community of Ogoki Post, also known as Marten Falls First Nation.

While in Ogoki Post, Downie visited the family of Wenjack, including his sister Pearl Achneepineskum, who has called for a new inquest into her brother's death.

Social media was filled with praise for Secret Path. Mark Solomon was touched by a quote in a statement issued by Downie.

One Indigenous podcaster asked why other high-profile Canadians aren't following Downie's lead.

Secret Path began as 10 poems written by Downie, recorded as songs in November and December 2013. When it's released on Oct. 18, it'll be accompanied by an 88-page graphic novel illustrated by award-winning author Jeff Lemire. An animated film inspired by Downie's music and Lemire's illustrations will be broadcast on CBC Television on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Proceeds from Secret Path will go to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.