Chanie Wenjack, misnamed Charlie Wenjack by his teachers, was an Anishinaabe boy, born in Ogoki Post on the Martin Falls Reserve on January 19th, 1954.
“Charlie was always mischievous, he excelled in dancing, he excelled in just enjoying the moment that he was given”
- Pearl Achneepineskum, Chanie’s sister
In 1963, at the age of nine, Chanie was sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential school in Kenora, Ontario. In 1966, at 12-years old, Chanie ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey, attempting to reunite with his family who were 600 kilometers away in Ogoki Post. Nine others ran away that same day but, all were are caught within 24 hours.
Unfortunately, Chanie’s body was found beside the railway tracks on October 22, 1966, a week after he fled. He succumbed to starvation and exposure. In his pocket was nothing but a little glass jar with seven wooden matches. Chanie fell victim to Canada’s legacy of colonization of Indigenous Peoples.
Chanie’s story, tragically, is like so many stories of Indigenous children in this country.
Chanie is survived by his sisters, Pearl and Daisy, and many other family members who carry on his legacy and share his story. Over the years, the Wenjack family has grown to over 200 people and live all across Canada; including Ogoki Post, ON; Pickle Lake, ON; and as far north as Pond Inlet, NU.
Pearl and Daisy have been visible advocates for sharing Chanie’s story. They have been seen at WE Days across Canada, and on the Secret Path Live tour in 2016. Their goal is to share Chanie’s story with all who will listen so that we never repeat these atrocities again.
Harriet, Chanie’s niece, is a member of the Downie Wenjack Fund steering committee as the voice for the Wenjack family. She ensures that the Wenjack family is represented in decisions made at the Downie Wenjack Fund and a respectful indigenous lens is applied to our decision-making process.
If you have a message for the Wenjack family or would like to invite them to speaking engagement, please contact the Downie Wenjack Fund staff at firstname.lastname@example.org