The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack Chanie was 12, and Indigenous. 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. 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. And the jury was obviously moved. It also shows the resolve of a young boy to return to the normalcy of his home and family life. 821. The kid wouldn’t give me his name. He was found with no jacket, no food and only a couple of matchsticks. It was part of a collaborative effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Chanie's death. From “ The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack ”: “All Charlie had was a common windbreaker. Wasacase understands that, too. They do it all the time, and they lose their toes and their fingers to frostbite. At that time the staff were all new and still trying to match names to faces. He collapsed and died sometime on the morning of October 23 in a rock cut near Farlane. Sometimes they lose a leg or an arm trying to climb aboard freight trains. But as Eddie remembers. Wikipedia. Close to the tracks, tall firs feather against a grey sky. The article brought the ordeal to national attention.[2]. They are raising awareness and funds for the Walk for Chanie Wenjack. He has decided not to send his daughters to school but to keep them at home. Then he left. He spent last year in what is called a junior opportunity class. The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie wrote a concept album based on Wenjack's escape. It was late at night when the three boys got to Redditt: it had taken them more than eight hours. During an inquest following his death, a jury of settlers created a list of recommendations for the … Silence. Early the next morning the boys walked another half mile to the cabin of Charles Kells. On November 17 an inquest was begun and a report was commissioned and determined that: The Indian education system causes tremendous emotional & adjustment problems for these children. It was a sunny afternoon and they were wearing only light clothing. His death… He was walking alone along a railway track, trying to make his way home to his father 600 kilometres away in northern Ontario. [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. But there was nothing stupid about Charlie. [5], On June 21, 2016, a Heritage Minute about Wenjack's death was released by Historica Canada to coincide with National Aboriginal Day. 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. Wenjack began his schooling at the age of nine and was put in remedial classes soon after. Comment Report abuse. People similar to or like Chanie Wenjack. 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. Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack (January 19, 1954 – October 23, 1966) was an 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. In fact, he was thin and sickly. by ahnationtalk on September 20, 2016 2095 Views. Consequently, Cecilia Jeffrey is, for 10 months in the year, really nothing more than an enormous dormitory. RELEASED 2016. 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 LONELY DEATH OF CHARLIE WENJACK Charlie was 12. The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack – Macleans. Two years after his death, Gord Downie’s memorable concert performance of his Secret Path album, was recreated by performers in Toronto Saturday night. These poems later became the lyrics to the Juno award-winning album, Secret Path. The earth and rocks are a cold brown and black. It was a show in which a dying man acted out the dying moments of a child who froze to death, alone. The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack. We have republished that cover story below in its original form, in which Chanie’s teachers misnamed him Charlie. The Kellys gave him some food and matches and suggested that he ask for help from the section maintenance crews stationed along the line. By Ian Adams Charlie was 12, and Indigenous. Wenjack had only a light windbreaker and walked for 36 hours in the wind as the temperature dropped to −6 °C (21 °F). We did so with the blessing and support of the Wenjack family and Grand Council Treaty #3. The bush undulates back from the railroad tracks like a bleak and desolate carpet. Occasionally, one of them dies. He was at one such school at the age of six when he broke his left arm. [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. Walk For Wenjack honours Chanie Wenjack and the thousands like him who never made it home. “I told the boys they would have to go back to school. Secret Path Week is a national week to remember the death of Chanie Wenjack, a young Anishinaabe boy who died trying to run away from residential school and reunite with his parents. He was an Indian. Today, 23 October, is the 52nd anniversary of Chanie Wenjack’s death. If the teacher in the class made a joke, a play on words, he was always the first to catch on.”. 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. 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. The boys were heading for Redditt, a desolate railroad stop on the CNR line, 20 miles north of Kenora and 30 miles east of the Manitoba border. He saw Charlie’s body lying beside the track. 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. There is no evidence that he or any child who lived there suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of anyone. The first Walk for Wenjack took place in 2016 and retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack. So I let them stay. symbolizes both death and rebirth with how Gord Downie’s Secret Path about Chanie Wenjack’s tragic death is spreading awareness about the painful truths of residential schools. But if a snap was taken, nobody knows where it is now. 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. At the time, 150 students lived at the school. Boyden's superb text is accompanied by outstanding illustrations. The story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack, whose death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools. Wasacase, in his early 30s, is a Cree from Broadview, Sask. 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. Chanie Wenjack. The project began as ten poems written by Gord as he imagined what it would be like to be Chanie. Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966 near Redditt, ON). 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. Chanie had frozen to death. That same morning Charlie’s best friend, Eddie Cameron, showed up at the Kelly cabin. Chanie attended the school for two years and ran away on Oct 16, 1966. He didn’t start school until he was nine. Fifty years ago this month, 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack ran away from a residential school. Eddie later broke down on the stand and had to be excused. He became lonely and ran away. 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. It is even doubtful if his father really understood either. 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. The two boys Chanie was with, brothers, made their way to their uncle’s home but Chanie continued on alone. “Indian children’s early medical records are practically impossible to track down,” explains Kenora’s public-health doctor, P. F. Playfair. 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. The MacDonald boys are orphans — their parents were killed in a train accident two years ago. Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack was an Anishinaabe boy and only 12 years old when he ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School, located near Kenora, Ontario. 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. 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. 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. When they found Charlie he didn’t have any identification. But in reality the map would be never more than a symbol, because Charlie didn’t know enough English to read it. “We? Elwood contacted the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) who recovered the body an hour later with help from a CN section crew. 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’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. 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. We made them that way.”, The men at the counter looked at him with closed, sullen faces. He died October 22, 1966, near Redditt, Ontario. He is lying on his back and his thin cotton clothing is obviously soaked. Read more. The three boys stayed with Ralph and Jackie's uncle, Charley Kelly, in Redditt. An hour later a section crew and two police officers went out to bring Charlie’s body back. He died as the white world's rules had forced him to live—cut off from his people. It meant that in early childhood his chest had been opened. His feet, encased in ankle-high leather boots, are oddly turned inward. [1][2], On October 27, 1966, Wenjack was buried at the cemetery on the reserve beside the Albany River.[1][2]. It was one week after he escaped from the residential school and over 60km from where he started. Nobody knows exactly when. The school, a bleak institutional building, stands on a few acres on the northeast outskirts of Kenora. Ethical questions were raised and it brought to light the abuse and treatment of indigenous children in the residential school system. A young well-dressed Indian girl came in and, with a masklike face, walked around the woman on the floor. 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. 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. 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