Why Gord Downie's 'beautiful' work can't stand alone

Jarrett Martineau says Gord Downie's activism has resonated with many Indigenous Canadians because of the humility and single-mindedness he's used.
Jarrett Martineau is the co-founder of the new record label RPM. (Melody Lau/CBC)

Gord Downie was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on Tuesday for his work highlighting the impact of residential schools through his latest project The Secret Path. The Secret Path is Downie's fifth studio album, which features a graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lamire.

Indigenous art scholar and founder of the Indigenous music platform Revolutions Per Minute Jarrett Martineau says he was surprised to see the AFN honour Downie in such an elaborate ceremony. Downie received a spirit name, eagle's feather and beaded medallion. However with the amount of attention The Secret Path has brought to the issue of residential schools, Downie is raising awareness for Indigenous people by speaking to non-Indigenous Canada and asking them to pay attention.

Martineau says "I would like to hear more from the Wenjack family," as the challenge remains to be who's voice is given priority when celebrities tackle social issues. "We need to hear more voices from survivors," explains Martineau but celebrities help bring different communities together by having them all meet in the middle.

One of the best things to come out of the ceremony was when "the PM committed to the importance of Indigenous language," says Martineau because it is important to hear words in the language of our people.