Loretta Gould depicted Gord Downie with Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who died escaping a residential school in her painting, “The Legacy.”

WAYCOBAH: The recent passing of Gord Downie left a mark on many people across the country, but Mi’kmaq artist Loretta Gould has created a lasting tribute through her painting “The Legacy.”

“Chief Morley Googoo asked me to do that painting because he was going to appear at the Chief Assembly in Quebec last year,” said Gould, who presented “The Legacy” to the Tragically Hip singer at the 2016 ceremony that was held by the Assembly of First Nations in Gatineau.

“Everything that happened was so overwhelming, and knowing I was going to meet Gord, I was so happy.”

The painting was among the gifts presented to Downie as he was recognized for his efforts to confront the violence experienced by First Nations people in Canada. Downie’s album, The Secret Path, was inspired by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who died trying to find his way home after escaping a residential school in 1966. Proceeds from the recording went toward the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation. Downie’s work also led to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund Legacy Room project, which establishes spaces within organizations across Canada dedicated to healing and sharing the stories of those impacted by residential schools.

When Gould learned about the work that Downie was doing in support of the First Nations community, she was pleased to honour him with her work. Her painting depicts Downie and Wenjack coming together to perform a smudging ceremony in the spirit world.

“I knew that he was sick, and eventually they were going to meet. I’m sure they’re happy to see each other now, knowing what kind of work Gord did here,” said Gould, who noted that Downie is the first non-native to appear in one of her paintings.

Gould feels that it is important to talk openly about what happened in residential schools. She said that projects such as The Legacy Room provide an opportunity to heal, not only for survivors of residential schools, but for First Nations families still struggling with the lasting effects of trauma.

“It’s heartbreaking to know what happened, and I’m glad my children will never experience that,” said Gould, who told The Reporter that both her husband’s parents were residential school survivors.

“The Creator brought Gord into our lives to begin the healing process from the violence that happened, even at home, even with your loved ones.”

The Waycobah painter has become known for her colourful artwork depicting Mi’kmaq themes. Her mother was a seamstress, and she was a quilter for 15 years before she started painting. She is currently working on a painting that will feature Cree singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie. Gould’s artwork can be viewed on her Facebook page, facebook.com/mikmaq.artist.loretta.gould.