On September 30th, St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School students and staff came together to recognize the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation by putting together and completing a Walk for Wenjack.
What is Walk for Wenjack?
Walk for Wenjack is a grassroots event that started in 2016. The first walk retraced the steps of Chanie Wenjack, beginning at the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, ON, and continued to Redditt, ON for a ceremony representing Chanie’s final resting spot near Farlane.
Since it’s been established, the Walk for Wenjack has provided Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada with the opportunity to participate in Secret Path Week in a meaningful way. The purpose of this walk not only empowers personal reflection, but further helps to acknowledge that everybody has their reason to Walk for Wenjack. No matter what that is, the walk is set up to help people honour their reason.
“Depending on the person, everyone has different connections to this day,” Says a St. Ben’s Grade 8 student who participated in the walk. “It doesn’t have one true meaning, but it is an opportunity for us to think about it together and what it might mean to yourself, and also to different people.”
According to the Walk for Wenjack website, for some individuals, this day could be a moment to honour Chanie. While for others, it may be an opportunity to raise awareness of the true history of residential schools. Nevertheless, both the school and Walk for Wenjack organization expresses that each walk is genuinely unique and has helped community’s understand how this day can impact and mean different things to different people.
Details of the Walk
The walk took place outside, on the St. Benedict’s school track. It was done over the course of the day by one class at a time to maintain safety and social distancing. At the end of the walk, each class tied an orange ribbon around St. Benedict’s “Every Child Matters” flag pole to help create awareness and promote togetherness.
In addition to the walk, signs were posted around the field to help remind people of the purpose of why they were walking. Each class also had a student representative that carried an “Every Child Matters” Indigenous flag, which was proudly displayed in the school’s front hall after the event.
“Though we could not walk altogether, our flag pole was a strong visible display that has helped unite our staff, students and community members together by showing our support is something we all participated in.” Says Merrill Sanowar, Vice Principal of St. Benedict’s.
The event is just one of many that their school will hope to participate in the future. As of this year, St. Benedict has signed up to be a Legacy School.
To be a Legacy School, entails that the Downey Wenjack organization will provide educational resources and program development to help ensure that Indigenous peoples’ unique interests, rights, and perspectives are recognized and implemented in St. Benedicts education and community. The Legacy Schools program is a free national initiative put on by the Downey Wenjack organization to engage, empower and connect students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education and action (#reconciliACTION) and will help create a close knit environment people can be comfortable and express themselves in.
“This is a commitment towards action. As an entire school community, this will be successful by all sharing and participating in this together. Every Child Matters isn’t exclusively talking about our Children. Every person was a child at one time. We want to show that we are doing this together and wish to let the community know.” Says Laura Kuzenko, Principal of St. Benedicts.