Pearl Achneepineskum appears in Heritage Minute’s short film on her brother Chanie Wenjack. (Historica Canada) PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — Chanie Wenjack’s sister said the presence of Gord Downie was upon Peterborough, Ont., as she marked the opening of a school for Indigenous studies at Trent University named after her brother.
"Even though Chanie is not here, our brothers Mike and Patrick are here," Pearl Achneepineskum said as she drew attention to Downie’s siblings across the room.
"I’m pretty sure Gord is here with us as well." Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, centre, speaks as he stands with Daisy Wenjack, left, and Pearl Wenjack at We Day on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Sunday, July 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang Speaking before she unveiled an installation that honoured her late brother, Achneepineskum said she prayed for the day Wenjack’s story would reach the levels of awareness it has in recent years.
With the help of Downie’s "Secret Path" project, the story of the 12-year-old boy who died while trying to escape an Ontario residential school in 1966 has reached a national consciousness.
"I don’t think Chanie ever thought of anybody ever honouring him as he was just a little Indian boy, just like the rest of us," she said.
"I prayed before I came that this would be a good day and that he would be with us today."
The Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies unites a number of undergraduate, masters and Ph.D programs under one name at Trent University, which has grown its Indigenous reconciliation programs over 48 years.
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