3 Things I Learned:
Hearing Chanie Wenjack’s story through song fostered a sense of empathy within me that I have never experienced. The sentimental lyrics by Gord Downie and the beautiful yet eerie illustrations by Jeff Lemire create a heart-wrenching story that tells of Canada’s darkest moments. Despite hearing countless stories similar to this, The Secret Path provoked emotions that were the strongest and saddest that I have ever felt towards a residential school survivor. I felt as though I was walking in Chanie’s shoes as he took each step along the railroad tracks. It was an experience that every Canadian should have. Empathy is a major part in overcoming these dark moments that continue to linger on.
Within a statement by Gord Downie, he explains that it will take seven generations to fix the wreckage done by residential schools! Since the last school only closed in 1996, there are still first generations alive today. Generations not much older than me! While I was aware of how near the history of residential schools is, when I think of my Indigenous friends, I never imagen the very real possibilities that they may have parents or even siblings who had attended. There is still a long way to go on our path to reconciliation.
We are a nation that has been separated and has tried going separate ways. Clearly that has gotten us nowhere; Like the rails of a train track, the diverse people of Canada need to work in parallel with each other. As Justice Murray Sinclair has said, “Education is key”. Educators play a huge role in Canada’s path to reconciliation, yet so many educators lack an accurate understanding of how to achieve reconciliation. Yes, there are bits and pieces of Indigenous studies within the curriculum, however, it is a majority of white educators who are teaching it. During the panel discussion, Ryan Murran explained, “there has been a lot of speaking about Indigenous peoples, it is time now for Indigenous people to have a voice”.
2 Connections I Made:
I have heard Jessey Wente speak before on reconciliation. He and two other artists took part in a radio talk show where they discussed how artists can use their art to reconcile. They explained that sometimes words alone are not enough and even though addressing the past through art can be a burden, it can also be an inspiration. The Secret Path, is an art form that does just that.
You can find the full talk show with Jessey Wente here:
When people take the time to dig into our cruel past to create art that stimulates reconciliation, they experience too much pain for viewers to simply ignore their work. It is this type of art that should cover the walls of our gallery. This art is the art of Canada– past, present, and future.
Questions I Still Have:
Would the outcome of The Secret Path have been different if it were done by Indigenous artists? Would it have been more successful, less successful, or no different? How much of a role did Indigenous people have in the making of The Secret Path?