Blackout Poem – “The Stranger”

Today people are encouraged to celebrate their differences, to never change who they are for someone else, but it was not always this way. In the poem “The Stranger” written by the late Gord Downie, the audience is given a view of the hardships Natives peoples faced due to the Europeans. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Native children were forced to attend Residential schools where the Caucasian peoples attempted to erase who they were. The kids were also victims of harsh abuse, causing many of them to attempt escape. The piece shares the chilling story of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who lost his life fleeing the torture he experienced at residential schools. The speaker describes the journey that Wenjack took, and his frequent repetition of “stranger” throughout the poem emphasizes the narrators’ struggle to recognize himself after being at the school. He also mentions a “Secret Path” that he travels, this path symbolizes freedom, something he died trying to acquire. This type of poem is important because it teaches people about what kids like Chanie had to go through. The treatment given to First Nations people back then was unacceptable and unforgivable, especially when young children are torn from their homes. Many Canadians are unaware of this dark past. Today’s society tends to not pay attention to things such as articles, but when they are put in a creative way they become more interesting to the reader. Downie’s poem teaches and makes the reader think and see a deeper meaning.

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