Chanie Wenjack was an Anishinaabe boy from Marten Falls First Nation. In 1963, at the age of nine, he was sent to Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. Three years later, he ran away to reunite with his family. On October 22, 1966, a week after he fled, Chanie’s body was found alongside railway tracks. His death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children at the Indian Residential Schools.
On October 22, students and staff at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School participated in a day of reconciliACTION as part of Secret Path Week, a national movement commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack that takes place annually from October 17-22.
Bishop Tonnos, a Downie Wenjack Legacy School, commemorated the week with a Walk for Wenjack.
The day began with a traditional smudging ceremony led by Melissa Button, Indigenous Education Lead, and Amanda Ottolino, Indigenous Education and Student Success Teacher. Nathan Muir, Indigenous Youth Advisor, performed a moving Honour Song to kick start the walk.
Clad in orange and purple shirts (orange for Every Child Matters and purple for the Downie Wenjack Fund), the students took to the track to realize their 600km goal – the distance Chanie travelled to get home. Carrying signs and listening to the music of The Secret Path, students also raised funds for the Woodlands Cultural Centre and The Downie Wenjack Fund.
Future goals for reconciliACTION include petitioning the government for the completion of the 94 Calls to Action produced by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the creation of a Legacy Space to promote education and reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people.
“Thanks to all who joined us in honouring Chanie by participating in the Walk for Wenjack, learning about the history and ongoing impact of residential schools, and making reconciliACTION happen this Secret Path Week,” commended Ottolino.
“Way to go, Titans, and keep the momentum moving towards true Reconciliation!”