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The New Heritage Minute Is A Powerful Reminder Of Canada's Residential School Legacy

"I survived residential school. My brother Chanie did not."

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Historica Canada just released a powerful new Heritage Minute addressing the legacy of Canada's residential school system.

View this video on YouTube

It was released Tuesday, on National Aboriginal Day.

While many Heritage Minutes cover proud or triumphant parts of Canadian history, this focuses on one of Canada's worst chapters.

Historica Canada / Via

Under the residential schools system, generations of Indigenous children were taken from their families and educated in government-sponsored, church-run schools where they were forbidden to observe their own cultures or even speak their own languages. The unofficial goal was to "kill the Indian in the child," and thereby assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.

The residential schools were also rife with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and as many as 6,000 children died from disease and other causes.

The new TV spot tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, who died from exposure after running away from his school in 1966 at age 12.

Canadian Encyclopedia / Via

Wenjack's death led to the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools and brought widespread attention to the issue, although the last residential school didn't close until 1996.

Written by novelist Joseph Boyden, the Heritage Minute is narrated by his sister Pearl Achneepineskum, who also attended residential school.

"I survived residential school," Achneepineskum says. "My brother Chanie did not."

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at

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