Tragically Hip’s lead singer, Gord Downie, has announced news of a solo album and graphic novel which will tell the story of Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who passed away escaping from a residential school in Northern Ontario, the namesake of Trent University’s Wenjack Theatre.
The announcement follows the premier of a Heritage Minute focused on the same story, and shines a light on Canada’s dark history of residential schools.
“Stories like Chanie’s, were all too common. But by acknowledging and honouring Chanie, and stories like his, we can make meaningful strides towards reconciliation," said Adam Hopkins, director of the First People’s House of Learning at Trent University.
In 1973, when construction began on Otonabee College at Trent, a group of student leaders from the now Indigenous Studies department lobbied for the college to be named in Chanie’s honour. The students saw this dedication as an opportunity for Trent to strengthen its Indigenous Studies program, and establish itself as a force for change, hope, and a positive educational experience. The campaign spearheaded by student leaders led to the memorialization of Charlie through the naming of Trent’s largest lecture hall as the Chanie Wenjack Theatre.