It was October 16, 1966, and Chanie, all of 12 years old and, for lack of a better word, stranded some 650 kilometres away from his family at the Cecilia Jeffery Indian Residential School, did what so many Aboriginal children in residential schools did – he ran away. For six days, he and some friends made their way north. Then he went out on his own, determined, but ill-equipped for the unforgiving terrain of Northern Ontario and the freezing temperatures, rain and snow. Chanie’s lifeless body was found by some railroad tracks, some 50 kilometres from the school he fled, on October 22, 1966.
The heartbreaking story, first chronicled in Maclean’s Magazine in 1967, was the inspiration behind The Secret Path, an album and graphic novel project of Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie that was released last year. The story will be interpreted as a feature garden at Canada Blooms 2017.