Indigenous Languages and Secret Path: Classroom Resources for High School Teachers

 In Events, Resources

The school year hasn’t quite begun, but many teachers are already getting ready for the first day of school and are planning out what they will be teaching this year. To help you get ready for your school year, and for Secret Path Week in particular, we are sharing a new resource kit we have created over the summer for high school teachers. 

Once again, we’ve teamed up with our friends at The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to create a series of free resources based on Secret Path, the multimedia project by Gord Downie, which tells the story of Chanie Wenjack’s flight from residential school. This project includes a graphic novel, an album, and an animated film. 

In honour of the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, the resources that we have created position Chanie Wenjack’s story as an opportunity to explore the topic of Indigenous languages and how they relate to Indigenous rights on a local, regional, national, and global scale.

As they complete the activities in this kit, learners will develop literacy, research, communication, and empathy skills as they learn about a variety of Indigenous languages and revitalization efforts and share what they learn with others in their communities. This kit is best suited for high school Indigenous studies, English language arts, and social studies classes. 

The Indigenous Languages and Secret Path resource kit will be provided to teachers participating in The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund’s Legacy Schools Program to act as a catalyst to bring Indigenous languages, cultures, histories, and perspectives into their classrooms. We have also provided links to the complete resource kit as well as the individual resources below. 


Download the full kit

  • Educator Guide – This Educator Guide will help you use the resources in this kit to position the story of Chanie Wenjack and Secret Path as a starting point for exploring Indigenous languages in Canada and around the world.
  • Indigenous Languages and Secret Path – Did you know that the United Nations declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages? What connections can we draw between Chanie Wenjack’s experiences at residential school and the process of language revitalization today? Let’s think about the importance of Indigenous languages and rights as we watch a clip from the Secret Path movie.
  • Finding a Secret Path: Mapping Activity – In Secret Path, Chanie Wenjack could not read the map that he took with him on his journey away from his residential school. How do you think he felt? Let’s do our own mapping activity to reflect and discuss how language and language loss can affect how we find our place in the world.
  • Indigenous Languages in Canada: KWL Chart and Infographic Analysis – The residential school system interrupted the transmission of many Indigenous languages between generations, but many of these languages were able to survive and thrive. Let’s explore how Indigenous peoples are continuing to strengthen and revitalize languages today.
  • Indigenous Languages: Worldviews and Revitalization– Why do Indigenous languages hold so much meaning for the people that speak them? Wahiakeron Gilbert and Diane Labelle from Kahnawake speak about the importance of Kanien’kehá:ka in their worldview, the effects that residential schooling had on the language, and the ways that people are teaching and learning the language today.
  • Research Activity: Indigenous Languages Here and Now – How much do you know about Indigenous languages in Canada? How about in your region or community? This activity asks you to research questions about Indigenous languages and create a visual representation (infographic or fact-sheet) to teach others what you learn.
  • Indigenous Languages Inquiry Project – What do you want to learn about Indigenous languages and language revitalization? What do you think other people should know? Take positive action and take control of your learning by choosing an inquiry question, planning your research, and creating a presentation to share what you learn with the people around you.
  • Annotated Bibliography: Indigenous Languages and Languages Revitalization – Reconciliation asks that teachers listen, learn, and grow with their students. This teacher handout offers a starting bibliography of Indigenous perspectives to help you continue past Secret Path and deepen your knowledge about Indigenous history, education, and languages in Canada. You may even want to share these resources with your learners!


In addition to this resource kit, we have also created one for middle school students around Storytelling and Secret Path that guides students through using different forms of storytelling to express themselves and honour stories like Chanie Wenjack’s. 

We hope that you enjoy these resources and will use them in your classrooms. If you are planning to include Secret Path in your classroom instruction or if you are addressing reconciliation with your class, sign-up for the Legacy Schools Program from The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. This program provides teachers with a free-of-charge toolkit that’s full of materials to use in the classroom to address the topics of residential schools and reconciliation. 

How did you use these resources in your classroom? Let us know.

"Cree" by William Burnstick (2019)