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Chanie Wenjack’s sister, brothers of Gord Downie praise Trent University for forward thinking

Trent University celebrated the official opening of a new school named in honour of Chanie Wenjack on Friday.

The Chanie Wenjack School of Indigenous Studies school brings together Trent’s Indigenous undergraduate, master’s and Ph. D programs all under one school.

Wenjack was a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died on his walk home after escaping an Ontario Indian residential school in 1966.

His sisters, Pearl Achneepineskum, Daisy Munroe and Evelyn Baxter travelled to Peterborough for the opening, which took place Gzowski College’s Gathering Space.

Mike and Patrick Downie, brothers of the late Gord Downie (frontman for The Tragically Hip), were also at the opening. Mike and Gord co-founded the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. It’s used to continue the conversation about residential schools, while working towards reconciliation. Achneepineskum called Mike and Patrick brothers, thanking the Downies for bringing Wenjack’s story, and residential schools and students, to the national stage. Gord’s last project was The Secret Path, a 10-track album accompanied by a graphic novel that shared Wenjack’s story.

"I had always wanted to tell the story in the beginning, when (Chanie) left this world, and I’m glad it’s gone as far as it as," Achneepineskum said.

Regarding the Canadian government’s attempt at reconciliation, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Achneepineskum said it’s a move that was long overdue.

"I’m glad that they finally found out that we exist and that we matter like everybody else." YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN…

Wenjack’s sister praised Trent for its leadership in Indigenous studies and for being the first organization to honour her late brother.

Trent was the first university in Canada to create an academic department dedicated to the study of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge in 1969. It was then known as the Department of Indian and Eskimo Studies.

In 1973, Trent named its largest lecture theatre in honour of Chanie Wenjack and other residential school victims and survivors.

Mike Downie applauded the university for its forward thinking in terms of Indigenous studies and entrprises.

"Trent University has been and continues to be a leader in Indigenous education to break down barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians through their programming, resources and initiatives," Mike stated in a release.

The Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies is the only school at Trent to be name in someone’s honour.

Following the official opening, Mike sat on a panel with five others, including Achneepineskum, to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

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