THUNDER BAY – Tributes are pouring out following the news that Gord Downie has passed away at the age of 53. The musician, artist, and activist of the Tragically Hip was battling cancer.
His family issued a statement:
Last night Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by.
Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips.
Gord said he had lived many lives. As a musician, he lived “the life” for over 30 years, lucky to do most of it with his high school buddies. At home, he worked just as tirelessly at being a good father, son, brother, husband and friend. No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one.
We would like to thank all the kind folks at KGH and Sunnybrook, Gord’s bandmates, management team, friends and fans. Thank you for all the help and support over the past two years.
Thank you, everyone, for all the respect, admiration and love you have given Gord throughout the years – those tender offerings touched his heart and he takes them with him now as he walks among the stars.
Love you forever Gord.
The Downie Family
Marten Falls First Nation Chief Bruce Achneepineskum states, “Condolences to Gord Downies family. A fine human being who made a difference with his music and ability to reach out on causes including marginalization of issues in First Nation communities”.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day writes, “He faced the challenge of reconciliation; he faced the Chiefs with respect, dignity and vision.
Here is a picture I took when at AFN on the front table – a moment of true humility for a man with such a powerful message of Love.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde today honoured the memory of Gord Downie as an artist and advocate who made a great personal effort to advance reconciliation and raise awareness of First Nations issues in Canada.
“I honour the life and work of Gord Downie, a dedicated and accomplished artist who used his profile to advance reconciliation and build support for First Nations peoples,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Gord had the ability to reach people who might not be otherwise engaged in our issues. This was a tremendous personal effort on his part, one that illustrates his commitment to justice and his belief that every Canadian has a role to play in reconciliation.”
“I will always be moved by the powerful moment last December at our Assembly when we honoured Gord for his work and gave him the Lakota name Wicapi Omani – Walks Among the Stars. Today, he begins a new journey among the stars, but his music, his art, his work and his memory will always be with us. I convey my deepest respect and send sincere condolences to his family and his partners in music and in life,” National Chief Bellegarde added.
In December 2016 at the AFN’s Special Chiefs Assembly, AFN National Chief Bellegarde and his wife Valerie wrapped Gord Downie in a starblanket in the presence of Elders and Chiefs, Grand Chiefs, First Nations youth and other delegates. The starblanket is bestowed to demonstrate respect and admiration for an individual. It is wrapped around someone to convey protection, warmth, love and family. The naming ceremony followed the bestowing of an eagle feather, a high honour given as Gord was named Wicapi Omani, Lakota for “Walks Among the Stars.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, on behalf of the Executive Council, has issued the following statement following the passing of legendary musician Gord Downie:
“Words cannot express our sorrow and our thoughts and prayers are with Gord’s brothers Mike and Patrick, and all of their family and friends. My dear friend took the country by storm last year with his heartfelt call to action and exposed dark truths about this country like no one before him. I have been deeply moved by Gord’s work with the Wenjack family to bring the history of the Indian Residential School system to a national audience. Gord restored the dignity and innocence of a little boy who only wanted to go home, and we have been humbled by his determination to share the story of Chanie and all of our youth who never made it home. We will forever be touched by Gord’s compassion and commitment to guide us along the path to reconciliation. Gord knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I pray that my friend has inspired us all to get moving.”
Grand Chief Fiddler was with Gord Downie when he launched his Secret Path multi-media project in Marten Falls First Nation on September 9, 2016. It marked the 50th anniversary of the death of 12-year-old Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, who died on October 22, 1966, after fleeing Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in northwestern Ontario. Travelling on foot in an attempt to make the 1,000-kilometre journey home to Ogoki Post, his body was found on October 23 along railroad tracks approximately 60 kilometres from the school near Kenora, Ontario.
The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund was established as a catalyst to jumpstart reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
AFN Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Regional Chief Morley Googoo said, “This is a very sad day. I want to extend my sincere condolences to Gord’s family. Canadians and Indigenous people have been so blessed that he gave us the last moments of his life. It is extraordinary that he shared his commitment to ‘do something’ and raise awareness for Indigenous inequalities. Most people, when faced with seeing their end, would not be so generous but it was clear to everyone Gord had an important legacy to fulfil. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I hope that they are comforted with the knowledge that Creator and all Indigenous people will be sending their prayers to them. Wela’lin, Gord.”
Along with many initiatives, Gord Downie spearheaded his multi-media project The Secret Path, a book, album and animated film based on Gord’s poems and music about Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year old Anishinaabe (Ojibway) boy who died trying to make his way home after running away from a residential school in northern Ontario. The project helped advance the discussion of Canada’s history and the need for reconciliation. Proceeds from the Secret Path album and graphic novel are donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. In June of this year, Gord was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada.