During an inquest following his death, a jury of settlers created a list of recommendations for the … The article brought the ordeal to national attention.[2]. . Nobody knows exactly when. Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy from Ontario, ran away from his residential school near Kenora at age 12, and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. That’s the position they found him in. On November 19, 2016, we set out from the former site of the Residential school and retraced the final journey of Chanie. February 1, 1967. We did so with the blessing and support of the Wenjack family and Grand Council Treaty #3. I told him to ask the sectionmen along the way for some food.”. One person found this helpful. Chanie Wenjack, 12, died from exposure and hunger. No, they didn’t understand why they couldn’t be with their relatives. I never seen a kid before who was so quiet like that.”, Nobody told Charlie to go. Consequently, Cecilia Jeffrey is, for 10 months in the year, really nothing more than an enormous dormitory. On March 9, 2018 Trent University marked the official launch of the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies. It was a show in which a dying man acted out the dying moments of a child who froze to death, alone. Early the next morning the boys walked another half mile to the cabin of Charles Kells. Chanie was born in 1954 and grew up in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve in northern Ontario. Wenjack was 12 years old when he ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey residential school in … 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. Many others didn’t have a clue who Chanie was. Occasionally, one of them dies. And when a snow squall comes tunnelling through a rock cut it blots out everything in a blur of whiteness. After four days with the Kellys, Wenjack left to follow the Canadian National Railway (CN) mainline, heading towards Ogoki Post, 600 km (370 mi) east and north from Kenora. The Kellys gave him some food and matches and suggested that he ask for help from the section maintenance crews stationed along the line. “I never seen him again,” said Clara Kelly. The first Walk for Wenjack took place in 2016 and retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack. And perhaps because they are Indians, no one seems to care very much. 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. “We? 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. Because nothing ever really changes around here.”. It’s not so unusual that Indian children run away from the residential schools they are sent to. When Eddie Cameron began to cry on the stand, the jury foreman, J. R. Robinson, said later, “I wanted to go and put my arms around that little boy and hold him, and tell him not to cry.”. Charlie was 12, and Indigenous. He collapsed and died sometime on the morning of October 23 in a rock cut near Farlane. Would they run away again? He was known to have a good sense of humour, according to the Cree Principal of the school, and was always the first to recognize a pun or riddle. She was taking tests for a suspected case of TB. He was headed home when he died of exposure on October 23, Like most of the Indians in the area, he leads a hard life and is often desperately hungry. And during those 36 hours that Charlie walked, there were snow squalls and freezing rain. No, they didn’t understand why they had to be at the school. Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack (January 19, 1954 – October 23, 1966) was an Ojibwe boy who was famous for running away from a residential school. The frontman of the Tragically Hip worked with Toronto illustrator Jeff Lemire on Secret Path, which includes an album, graphic novel and animated film. There is no evidence that he or any child who lived there suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of anyone. And the jury was obviously moved. The school was run by the Women’s Society of the Presbyterian Church. Charlie Wenjack was an Ojibway Indian attending Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont. The girl bought a pack of cigarettes, and then on the way out held the door open for the woman, who crawled out on her hands and knees and collapsed on the sidewalk. He has decided not to send his daughters to school but to keep them at home. He is lying on his back and his thin cotton clothing is obviously soaked. Charlie Wenjack finally did go home — the Indian Affairs Department saw to that. Two years after his death, Gord Downie’s memorable concert performance of his Secret Path album, was recreated by performers in Toronto Saturday night. Evidence given at the inquest into his death showed that he had made his way another 20 km (12 mi) east along the CN mainline. But as the days passed Charlie got the message. Chanie’s story sparked national conversation about the standards and practices of Residential Schools. Gord Downie had explained that this story is the inspiration for his Secret Path project. Bruises indicated that he fell several times. He died while trying to walk 600 km back home. It’s obvious he cares about his nephews. BUY DIGITAL MINUTE; BUY DVD; … He had played hooky for one afternoon a week earlier, and for that he had been spanked by the principal, Colin Wasacase. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the death of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died on October 22, 1966 after fleeing Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in northwestern Ontario. Today, 23 October, is the 52nd anniversary of Chanie Wenjack’s death. And though he stayed alive for the next 36 hours, nobody saw him alive again. 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. But as Eddie remembers. In 2016, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute about the heart-breaking story of 12-year old Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, whose death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools. 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. Nobody told him to stay either. “It was too dangerous for five in the canoe.” said Kelly, “so I told the stranger he would have to stay behind.”. Colin Wasacase, the principal, went along with them, too. 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. (That same day nine other children ran away. He was headed home when he died of exposure on October 23, It is a book that will change your life forever. The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Chanie’s death. THE LONELY DEATH OF CHARLIE WENJACK Charlie was 12. He carried an enormous, livid scar that ran in a loop from high on his right chest, down and up over his back. Charlie had more than half of northern Ontario to cross. He died trying to walk 400 miles home to his father, who lives and works on an isolated reservation in northern Ontario. 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. The arm turned gangrenous and was amputated. 156087739, citing Ogoki Cemetery, Ogoki, Cochrane District, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by … Coroner Dr. Glenn Davidson determined the cause of the death was attributed to exposure and hunger. Ralph, 13, was always running away —three times since school had started last fall. His own parents kept him out of school for two years because another boy in the family died much the same way Charlie did. It is unlikely that Charlie ever understood why he had to go to school and why it had to be such a long way from home. 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. Today marks the 54th anniversary of the tragic death of Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy, who at the tender age of 12, ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School run by The Presbyterian Church in Canada to return home, only to be found … On the afternoon of Sunday, October 16, when Charlie had only another week to live, he was playing on the Cecilia Jeffrey grounds with his two friends, Ralph and Jackie MacDonald. Elwood contacted the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) who recovered the body an hour later with help from a CN section crew. They do it all the time, and they lose their toes and their fingers to frostbite. “I work for the highways department . Read more. They were all dry. When they found Charlie he didn’t have any identification. The village he came from, Ogoki Post on the Martin Falls reservation, didn’t have a day school. These poems later became the lyrics to the Juno award-winning album, Secret Path. [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. Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) First Nations boy who ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School where he boarded for three years while attending residential school in Kenora, Ontario, Canada. Unlike other Heritage Minutes that were narrated by actors, Wenjack's was narrated by his sister, Pearl.[6]. The Sunday they went to pick up Charlie’s body, intermittent snow and sleet blew through Kenora’s streets. Burton was gentle enough, but the boys were withdrawn and for the most part monosyllabic in their answers. “Indian children’s early medical records are practically impossible to track down,” explains Kenora’s public-health doctor, P. F. Playfair. [1][2], Chanie Wenjack was born in 1954 on the Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve. of Kenora, showed that his lungs were infected at the time of his death. This gathering of relations subtly put Charlie Wenjack out in the cold. “I never said nothing to that,” says Kelly. 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. There were no Indians on the jury. They are raising awareness and funds for the Walk for Chanie Wenjack. 156087739, citing Ogoki Cemetery, Ogoki, Cochrane District, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by … He was walking alone along a railway track, trying to make his way home to his father 600 kilometres away in northern Ontario. Evidence given at the inquest into his death showed that he had made his way another 20 km (12 mi) east along the CN mainline. At the time, 150 students lived at the school. Chanie Wenjack died 50 years ago this month: The Ojibwa boy froze by the side of Northern Ontario train tracks after running away from a residential school. The temperature was between –1° and –6° C. It is not hard to imagine the hopelessness of his thoughts. There are five police pictures of Charlie, though. 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. Mrs. Kelly gave him some wooden matches and put them in a little glass jar with a screw cap so they would keep dry. It was part of a collaborative effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Chanie's death. Nobody goes into the bush without matches. HERITAGE MINUTES. The Feburary 1967 Maclean's article "The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack" Reading that Maclean’s story now, the most unsettling fact is just how familiar it seems. But if a snap was taken, nobody knows where it is now. 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. In their own way they tried to do their duty. 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. Chanie Wenjack was a young Anishinaabe boy from Ogoki Post in Marten Falls In Northern Ontario, Canada. Chanie had frozen to death. At Sioux Lookout the little party picked up Charlie’s mother. The first Walk for Wenjack took place in 2016 and retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack. The 84th Heritage Minute in Historica Canada's collection. He collapsed and died sometime on the morning of October 23 in a rock cut near Farlane. He must have stumbled along the tracks at a painfully slow pace — in the end he had covered only a little more than 12 miles. An Indian woman in an alcoholic stupor was on her hands and knees on the floor, trying to get out the door. [4], In 2016, the Gord Downie-Chanie Wenjack Fund was established to help with reconciliation between Canada and its indigenous peoples. They went to the house of a white man the MacDonald brothers knew as “Mister Benson.” Benson took the exhausted boys in, gave them something to eat, and let them sleep that night on the floor. It is the exact spot where on the night of October 22 Charlie collapsed and died from exposure and hunger . Chanie attended the school for two years and ran away on Oct 16, 1966. 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. The Feburary 1967 Maclean's article "The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack" Reading that Maclean’s story now, the most unsettling fact is just how familiar it seems. 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. That might have saved Charlie’s life. It meant that in early childhood his chest had been opened. The kid behind the counter suddenly turned whitefaced and angry, “No, we did,” he said. His death… We did so with the blessing and support of the Wenjack family and Grand Council Treaty #3. I was a young college student when I first heard the story of Charlie/Chanie Wenjack in a song written and sung by Willie Dunn. 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. They are large 8-by-10 prints, grey and underexposed, showing the thin, crumpled little body of a 12-year-old boy with a sharp-featured face. Two years after his death, Gord Downie’s memorable concert performance of his Secret Path album, was recreated by performers in Toronto Saturday night. When the lights went down, the darkness felt overwhelming. Wasacase understands that, too. That night all there was to eat were two potatoes. It also shows the resolve of a young boy to return to the normalcy of his home and family life. These poems later became the lyrics to the Juno award-winning album, Secret Path. But it was now. 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. And it was beside a lot of water.’, On Thursday morning Kelly decided he would take his three nephews by canoe up to his trapline at Mud Lake, three miles north of Redditt. Chanie Wenjack. At that time the staff were all new and still trying to match names to faces. At the age of nine, he was sent, along with his two sisters, to board at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora. In the three years he had been at the school Charlie had never run away. He didn’t eat anything himself but he drank some tea with the others. Chanie Wenjack, 12, died from exposure and hunger. When Eddie Cameron, Charlie’s best friend, entered the witness box, Davidson unnerved Eddie with warnings about telling the truth and swearing on the Bible. I couldn’t let them run around in the bush. Charlie’s father, grief-stricken, was bewildered and angry as well. We did so with the blessing and support of the Wenjack family and Grand Council Treaty #3. Eddie later broke down on the stand and had to be excused. RELEASED 2016. He was at one such school at the age of six when he broke his left arm. "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. … Charlie replied that he was leaving to go home to his father. Share. We made them that way.”, The men at the counter looked at him with closed, sullen faces. Jackie, only 11, often played hooky. 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. He died as the white world’s rules had forced him to live—cut off from his people. Kelly cooked and divided them among the four boys. Kelly is their uncle and favorite relative. Wenjack had only a light windbreaker and walked for 36 hours in the wind as the temperature dropped to −6 °C (21 °F). He died as the white world's rules had forced him to live — cut off from his people. All were caught within 24 hours.). © Copyright 2021 St. Joseph Communications. He became lonely and ran away. In 1973, indigenous students at Trent University lobbied for a building to be named after Wenjack. just four-and-a-half feet from the trains that carry the white world by in warm and well-fed comfort. For more information about Chanie Wenjack visit The Canadian Encyclopedia. In one of the photographs an Ontario Provincial Police sergeant is pointing down at Charlie’s body, where it lies beside the CNR track. The story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack, whose death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools. However, most of what is written and shown in these accounts about the tragic death of an Ojibway boy named Chanie Wenjack – an alleged victim of the residential school system whose frozen body was found curled up beside railway tracks in northwestern Ontario on the morning of October 23, 1966 several days after he ran away from a former Indian residential school where he was boarding – … The three boys stayed with Ralph and Jackie's uncle, Charley Kelly, in Redditt. Kelly told Charlie he would have to walk back because there was no room in the canoe. The wind whines through the jackpines and spruce, breaking off rotten branches, which fall with sudden crashes. Davidson let Burton deal with the boys after that. Chanie attended the school for two years and ran away on Oct 16, 1966. When he talks he has a nervous habit of raking his fingers through his grey, shoulder-length hair. Ethical questions were raised and it brought to light the abuse and treatment of indigenous children in the residential school system. Chanie Wenjack was a 12-year-old Anishinaabe child who died of hunger and exposure in 1966 when he ran away from a residential school in Kenora. Walk For Wenjack honours Chanie Wenjack and the thousands like him who never made it home. Even before Charlie ran away he was already running hard just to keep pace with the bewildering white world he had suddenly been thrust into. But the most poignant suggestion was the one that reflected their own bewilderment: “A study be made of the present Indian education and philosophy. 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. An hour later a section crew and two police officers went out to bring Charlie’s body back. “Chanie” was what his family called him.) Bruises indicated that he fell several times. The kid wouldn’t give me his name. Slipping away was simple. [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). [1][2], On October 27, 1966, Wenjack was buried at the cemetery on the reserve beside the Albany River.[1][2]. Chanie had frozen to death. He was walking alone along a railway track, trying to make his way home to his father 600 kilometres away in northern Ontario. 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. Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966 near Redditt, ON). ... 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. He died alone, frozen by the side of northern Ontario train tracks, hundreds of kilometres away from home, his body bruised by repeated falls. He spent last year in what is called a junior opportunity class. “The thing we remember most about him was his sense of humor. Wikipedia. Once there, he was given the name 'Charlie'. The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack. Just two blocks west at Second and Matheson I walked into a hamburger joint called the Salisbury House. He was found with no jacket, no food and only a couple of matchsticks. Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Chanie Wenjack. Sometimes they lose a leg or an arm trying to climb aboard freight trains. Chanie was 12, and Indigenous. Kelly is a small man in his 50s. 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. 821. If the worst comes to the worst you can always light a fire to keep warm. But there was nothing stupid about Charlie. From “ The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack ”: “All Charlie had was a common windbreaker. Right there on the playground the three boys decided to run away. Click here to view this article in the Maclean’s archive. He, too, had run away from the school. 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 Helpful. He died as the white world's rules had forced him to live—cut off from his people. He attended Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario. It was a sunny afternoon and they were wearing only light clothing. For the 75 girls and 75 boys there are only six supervisors. It was late at night when the three boys got to Redditt: it had taken them more than eight hours. “I told the boys they would have to go back to school. He buried Charlie, his only son, in the tiny cemetery on the north shore of the Albany River. The church services were over, and the congregations from Knox United Church and the First Presbyterian Church, which face each other at Second Street and Fifth Avenue, were spilling out onto the sidewalks. The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack Chanie was 12, and Indigenous. “That’s what they do to themselves,” he said in a tone of amused contempt. 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. They won’t stay at the school. In the following days of loneliness that map was to become the focus of his longings to get back to his father. That same morning Charlie’s best friend, Eddie Cameron, showed up at the Kelly cabin. And Charlie would tell Eddie that he was going to leave soon to go home to his father. They are raising awareness and funds for the Walk for Chanie Wenjack. 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. After hearing about Chanie Wenjack’s life and death, Gord Downie began a personal project to tell the story of Chanie and share it with other Canadians. He died October 22, 1966, near Redditt, Ontario. Yes, they were lonesome. 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 11:20 a.m. on Sunday, October 23, engineer Elwood Mclvor was bringing a freight train west through the rock cut near Farlane, 12 1/2 miles east of Redditt. For more information about Chanie Wenjack visit The Canadian Encyclopedia. Is it right?”. As soon as they were clear of the school, the three boys hit that strange running walk with which young Indian boys can cover 10 miles in an hour. Inside were half a dozen wooden matches. A young well-dressed Indian girl came in and, with a masklike face, walked around the woman on the floor. So it must have been with a defiant attempt to assert his own trail existence that he would take out his map and show it to his friend Eddie Cameron, and together they would try to make sense out of it. But Charlie didn’t ask anyone for anything. All Charlie had was a cotton windbreaker. 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. By Ian Adams “No,” insisted the kid, “it was you, me, and everybody else. Ojibwe artist and curator from M'Chigeeng First Nation, Ontario. Then he left. 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