We have a secret path, but maybe it’s not so secret anymore. The Fish Bellies are good at catching Indian children. One day I will run. One day they won’t hurt me anymore.
An Ojibwe boy runs away from a North Ontario Indian School, not realizing just how far away home is.
Along the way he’s followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.
Wenjack is a powerful and poignant look into the world of a residential school runaway trying to find his way home.
As I started to read Wenjack I had this utter feeling of panic. Panic because I instantly knew what the story was about. A few years ago I did a lot of research into the history of Canada and the oppression of the First Nations people. The most sickening part of it all was the horrors of residential schools. Children were taken from their families and moved hundreds of miles away to be “integrated” into white society where awful injustices were done to children. Joseph Boyden tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack’s time at a residential school and his attempted escape.
Stories such as these break our hearts but educate us. I was touched and the prose was beautiful. A short story but more powerful than some of the longest books I’ve read. Each chapter is dedicated to an animal through which we learn a little more about the little boy.
I leave you with the knowledge that little boy Wenjack existed in real life. This is a book every Canadian needs to pick up as it will take less than an hour to read but will stay with everyone their whole lives, reminding us to continue to be a caring nation.