For over 150 years, residential schools operated in Canada. Over 150,000 children attended these schools. Many never returned. Often underfunded and overcrowded, these schools were used as a tool of assimilation by the Canadian state and churches. A very cruel experiment. Thousands of students suffered physical, mental, and sexual abuse. All suffered from loneliness and a longing to be home with their families. The damages inflicted by these schools continue to this day.
One of those students was Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack, and we have been especially moved by his story. Chanie was born January 19, 1954. He died October 23, 1966, near Redditt, ON. An Anishinaabe boy, at age 12 he ran away from his residential school and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. All Chanie wanted was to go home, which was over 600 km away in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls First Nation. His death sparked national attention and the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.
Inspired by the Secret Path story and Gord Downie's humility, sincerity, and determination to tell the story of all youths from the residential school era who never made it home, members from the Courage For Gord team embarked on not only our most impactful fundraiser but a spiritual journey called #walkforwenjack - the journey retraced the Secret Path steps of Chanie Wenjack.
On November 19 and 20, 2016, the walk started at the site of the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, ON, and continued to Redditt, ON for a ceremony representing Chanie's final resting spot near Farlane, ON. For more details, be sure to follow along on the groups Facebook page here.
Photos by Joel Clements