client work Chanie Wenjack
client Historica Canada
run time 1 minute
project type Advertisement / PSA
director Shane Belcourt
Chanie Wenjack was an Anishinaabe boy born in 1954 and who lived on the Marten Falls Reserve with his parents and siblings. His community did not have a school and at the age of nine he and three of his sisters were sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residental School near Kenora, Ontario. Chanie struggled academically at school and felt out of place, missing his home and his family. His despair continued to grow and in the late autumn of 1966 he hatched a plan to escape from the school and return home, some 600 km away. In spite of the cold weather, light clothing and knowing that the school principal, a member of the Cree nation, punished children with a strap for trying to run away, Chanie, two friends and nine other students decided to flee the school one chilly October afternoon. Chanie didn’t make it home, he died one week after his escape from exposure to the cold weather and hunger. His body was eventually returned home to his family for burial. Sadly, Chanie was not the only child to die due to residential schools in Canada, and that remains a dark and tragic part of Canadian history.