It started at the Cecillia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, ON, and continued to Redditt, ON for a ceremony representing Chanie's final resting spot near Farlane, ON. The first Walk for Wenjack took place in 2016 and retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack. The frontman of the Tragically Hip worked with Toronto illustrator Jeff Lemire on Secret Path, which includes an album, graphic novel and animated film. It meant that in early childhood his chest had been opened. It was part of a collaborative effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Chanie's death. Because Charlie wasn’t as strong as the others, they had to wait often while he rested and regained his strength. Ethical questions were raised and it brought to light the abuse and treatment of indigenous children in the residential school system. . THE LONELY DEATH OF CHARLIE WENJACK Charlie was 12. The story of the 12-year-old boy who froze to death beside the railway tracks while trying to walk 600 kilometres home is getting a very public retelling through Gord Downie's multi-media project, Secret Path. He had played hooky for one afternoon a week earlier, and for that he had been spanked by the principal, Colin Wasacase. “Do you think it was because he wanted to see his parents?”, Before the boys were questioned, the constable in charge of the investigation, Gerald Lucas, had given the jury a matter-of-fact account of finding Charlie’s body. Wasacase, in his early 30s, is a Cree from Broadview, Sask. He has lived in them since he was a child, and taught in them. It was a terrible mistake.”. … Later he and his wife Clara would refer to Charlie as “the stranger.” The Kellys had no idea where Charlie’s reserve was or how to get there. Read more. [1][2], Wenjack had only a light windbreaker and walked for 36 hours in the wind as the temperature dropped to −6 °C (21 °F). But as the days passed Charlie got the message. That’s the position they found him in. The Wenjack affair along with many other incidents would bring legislative reforms and class action lawsuits as well as the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That night all there was to eat were two potatoes. Just two blocks west at Second and Matheson I walked into a hamburger joint called the Salisbury House. Chanie had frozen to death. His own parents kept him out of school for two years because another boy in the family died much the same way Charlie did. But there was nothing stupid about Charlie. These poems later became the lyrics to the Juno award-winning album, Secret Path. By Ian Adams Chanie attended the school for two years and ran away on Oct 16, 1966. [1][2], Chanie Wenjack was born in 1954 on the Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve. He died trying to walk 400 miles home to his father, who lives and works on an isolated reservation in northern Ontario. Unlike other Heritage Minutes that were narrated by actors, Wenjack's was narrated by his sister, Pearl.[6]. In 1967, a Maclean’s cover story told the tragic tale of Chanie Wenjack, an Indigenous boy who died after running away from his residential school in northern Ontario. This fall he wasn’t quite good enough to go back into the grade system, so he was placed in what is called a senior opportunity class. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com: accessed ), memorial page for Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (19 Jan 1954–23 Oct 1966), Find a Grave Memorial no. "Wenjack" is a short novel by Joseph Boyden (winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize) the tells the story of Chanie Wenjack (a native Canadian) who at the age of 13 died of hunger after fleeing the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School at age 13 in Kenora, Ontario, Canada. We made them that way.”, The men at the counter looked at him with closed, sullen faces. There is news today that this story is the inspiration for a new project from Gord Downie that will be released next month. It started at the Cecillia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, ON, and continued to Redditt, ON for a ceremony representing Chanie's final resting spot near Farlane, ON. But the most poignant suggestion was the one that reflected their own bewilderment: “A study be made of the present Indian education and philosophy. Anong Beam. Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack (January 19, 1954 – October 23, 1966) was an Ojibwe boy who was famous for running away from a residential school. There’s not much else to say about Charlie Wenjack, except that on November 17 an inquest was held in the Kenora Magistrate’s Court. When they found Charlie he didn’t have any identification. He was an Indian. © Copyright 2021 St. Joseph Communications. The Kellys also had two teenage daughters to feed and Kelly, who survives on a marginal income from welfare and trapping, probably began to wonder exactly what his responsibility to Charlie was. Chanie Wenjack was not attending an Indian residential school at the time of his death and Cecilia Jeffrey was not operated by the Catholic Church. There is no evidence that he or any child who lived there suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of anyone. From “ The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack ”: “All Charlie had was a common windbreaker. Chanie Wenjack, 12, died from exposure and hunger. [1][2], His body was discovered beside the track at 11:20 am on October 23 by Elwood McIvor, a CN railway engineer on freight train number No. Charlie Wenjack was an Ojibway Indian attending Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont. I didn’t know what to do. Fifty years after Chanie Wenjack's tragic death while running away from residential school, his sister says it's time every First Nation had its own school. Charlie played outside for a while, then he came in and told Mrs. Kelly he was leaving and he asked for some matches. And Charlie, who understood hardly any English, spent the first two years in grade one. The school was run by the Women’s Society of the Presbyterian Church. The arm turned gangrenous and was amputated. Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack’s short life ended after he ran away from residential school in 1966. Mrs. Kelly gave him some wooden matches and put them in a little glass jar with a screw cap so they would keep dry. The crushed-rock ballast, so hard to walk on, is a pale-yellow supporting ribbon for the dark steel tracks. He spent last year in what is called a junior opportunity class. For more information about Chanie Wenjack visit The Canadian Encyclopedia. At that time the staff were all new and still trying to match names to faces. “It’s a story that should be told,” said the section foreman, Ed Beaudry. He died as the white world's rules had forced him to live—cut off from his people. ... Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City, which won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction and the 2017 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Charlie arrived at the Cecilia Jeffrey School, which is run by the Presbyterian Church and paid for by the federal government, in the fall of 1963. He died of hunger and exposure at Farlane, Ontario while trying to walk 600 km (370 mi) back to his home, Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve. At the time, 150 students lived at the school. The temperature was between –1° and –6° C. It is not hard to imagine the hopelessness of his thoughts. At the age of nine, he was sent, along with his two sisters, to board at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora. It has been a true honour and a privilege to learn from and collaborate with the guest speakers who have shared their stories and ideas with Windsor students for this project. He was taken the the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School, run by the Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church of Canada and funded by the federal government, at the age of nine. For more information about Chanie Wenjack visit The Canadian Encyclopedia. It’s the only way you can get to Charlie’s home. Chanie (misnamed Charlie by his teachers) was a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who, along with two other classmates, ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario in October 1966. From Nakina they all flew 110 miles north to Ogoki. Jackie, only 11, often played hooky. Bruises indicated that he fell several times. The project began as ten poems written by Gord as he imagined what it would be like to be Chanie. Chanie Wenjack, 12, died from exposure and hunger. Joseph Boyden takes you to the heart of Chanie Wenjack and the agony and fear of the situation in which he finds himself. Ralph, 13, was always running away —three times since school had started last fall. All Chanie wanted was to go home, which was over 600 km away in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls First Nation reserve. On November 19, 2016, we set out from the former site of the Residential school and retraced the final journey of Chanie. Chanie was 12, and Indigenous. Chanie’s attempt to return home and see his father led to his death on the side of railway tracks by hunger and exposure to harsh weather. Elwood contacted the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) who recovered the body an hour later with help from a CN section crew. It was a show in which a dying man acted out the dying moments of a child who froze to death, alone. It’s not so unusual that Indian children run away from the residential schools they are sent to. The story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack, whose death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools. View Full Article. Chanie’s story sparked national conversation about the standards and practices of Residential Schools. “I told the boys they would have to go back to school. “That’s what they do to themselves,” he said in a tone of amused contempt. A young well-dressed Indian girl came in and, with a masklike face, walked around the woman on the floor. His ordeal and his death brought attention to the treatment of children in the Canadian Indian Residential School System and following Wenjack's death, an inquest into the matter was ordered by the Government of Canada. If they had planned it a little better they could have taken along their parkas and overshoes. through the stumbling testimony of the boys, and in the bewildered silences behind those soft one-word answers, the full horror began to come out. “The thing we remember most about him was his sense of humor. The kid behind the counter suddenly turned whitefaced and angry, “No, we did,” he said. [1][2], On the morning of October 16, 1966, Wenjack and two school friends, orphaned brothers Ralph and Jackie MacDonald, ran away from the residential school, making it as far as Redditt, 31 km (19 mi) north of Kenora. He didn’t start school until he was nine. In the three years he had been at the school Charlie had never run away. (That same day nine other children ran away. There were no Indians on the jury. So this, then, is the story of how a little boy met a terrible and lonely death, of the handful of people who became involved, and of a town that hardly noticed. The haunting lyrics sung in a deep voice that reminded me of my friend, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, stayed with me, and to this day, 30 some years later, I can still hear the song in my head. The project began as ten poems written by Gord as he imagined what it would be like to be Chanie. A year after Wenjack's death an article written by journalist Ian Adams, "The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack," was published in February 1967 in Maclean's magazine. He died as the white world's rules had forced him to live—cut off from his people. Published in October 2016, a novella by Canadian author Joseph Boyden focused on the suffering Wenjack endured and his state of mind during his ordeal. Charlie had more than half of northern Ontario to cross. The Kellys gave him some food and matches and suggested that he ask for help from the section maintenance crews stationed along the line. And though he stayed alive for the next 36 hours, nobody saw him alive again. And then at some point on Saturday night, Charlie fell backward in a faint and never got up again. Somewhere along the track he lost his map or threw it away. CHARLIE WENJACK would have been 13 years old on January 19, and it’s possible that during his short and disturbed life someone may have taken a snapshot of him — one of those laughing, open-faced, blurred little pictures one so often sees of children. For the 75 girls and 75 boys there are only six supervisors. No, they didn’t understand why they couldn’t be with their relatives. It also shows the resolve of a young boy to return to the normalcy of his home and family life. TORONTO -- Fifty years since the untimely death of Chanie Wenjack, Joseph Boyden is part of a collective of Canadian artists bringing renewed attention to the indigenous boy's tragic story. The school, a bleak institutional building, stands on a few acres on the northeast outskirts of Kenora. Burton was gentle enough, but the boys were withdrawn and for the most part monosyllabic in their answers. In 1967, Maclean’s told the tragic tale of Chanie Wenjack, an Indigenous boy who died after running away from his residential school in northern Ontario. “No,” insisted the kid, “it was you, me, and everybody else. They put him in a coffin and took him back to Redditt and put him on the train with his three little sisters, who were also at the Cecilia Jeffrey School. . At Sioux Lookout the little party picked up Charlie’s mother. He was headed home when he died of exposure on October 23, It was one week after he escaped from the residential school and over 60km from where he started. He probably spent hours, huddled behind rocks to escape the wind, gazing at the railroad tracks. The Anishinaabe boy ran away from a local residential school at the age of 12 in an attempt to return to his home in Marten Falls and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the weather. Wenjack is a historical fiction novella based on the story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack by Canadian author Joseph Boyden.It was published by Hamish Hamilton of Penguin Books in 2016 and features illustrations by Cree artist Kent Monkman.It was part of a collaborative effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Chanie's death. [9], Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, Canadian Indian Residential School System, Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (Canada), "Wenjack & Downie Families Join Trent University to Celebrate Opening of Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies", "Downie-Wenjack fund receives $5M in 2018 federal budget", "New Heritage Minute explores dark history of Indian residential schools", "The flight of Chanie Wenjack, the boy who inspired Gord Downie's new album", "Gord Downie to release solo album, graphic novel next month", "How Chanie Wenjack chose Joseph Boyden - Macleans.ca", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chanie_Wenjack&oldid=994961066, All Wikipedia articles written in Canadian English, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 18 December 2020, at 13:08. The body an hour later with help from a Residential school and retraced the final journey of Chanie Wenjack the! 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