The man who walks among the stars
On October 18, 2017, a Canadian hero was lost. Gordon "Gord" Downie was famously known as being the frontman for the band The Tragically Hip. In May 2016, Downie went public with the news that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is a very aggressive form of brain cancer.
The Tragically Hip is from Kingston, Ontario, the band started playing music in 1984 and continued to play up until 2016. On August 20, 2016 The Hip played their very last show in Kingston. The concert was broadcasted across Canada and roughly 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the last performance ever played by the legendary band.
In Gord’s final year of his life, he spent his energy advocating for indigenous rights and reconciliation. Last October, Downie released his fifth studio album, ‘Secret Path’. The album was dedicated to young Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy from the Marten Falls First Nation. Wenjack died while attempting to return home after escaping a residential school system in 1966. All the proceeds that came from the project album went to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.
Downie also started a foundation called The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack fund, the money goes towards education and support of the healing and recovering of indigenous peoples. As a thank you for his work and efforts Downie was presented in 2016 with an eagle feather from National Chief Perry Bellegarde. It was a gift from the creator, as well as the Lakota name, Wicapi Omani, translated into, “man who walks among the stars”.
Downie tried with all the energy he had left to restore the broken relationship between the indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada. He stated “to become a country, and truly call ourselves Canada, it means we must become one. We must walk down a path of reconciliation from now on. Together and forever".
Gord Downie saw Canada for what it was. He knew that we have a long way to go before we are truly healed, and he did everything he could to help the indigenous peoples of Canada. He strongly believed that we cannot call ourselves strong and free if we still ignore the hurt and pain that an entire nation of people feel.
His work around education is the leap that was needed to push the conversation for Canadians to the history of the Indigenous peoples. In an interview, the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Chief Morley Googoo said that, “Downie was a living embodiment of the push to reconcile relations between Indigenous and non- indigenous peoples”.
Gord Downie may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. He made such an impression on the country, that will be ever lasting. It’s with great hope that what Gord Downie did in his last year for the aboriginal community in Canada will push everybody else in this country to make a stronger, better Canada for the next 150 years. In the words of George Stroumboulopoulos after Gord's death, “Our North Star has dimmed”.