By Bonnie Stevens
Reviewed in Canada on February 18, 2024

In Lonely Death of an Ojibway Boy, Mr. MacBain provides a shocking expose of the convoluted story of Charlie Wenjack as presented in Secret Path, a book that has curiously been deemed useful as a teaching tool and included in school curriculum across Canada. The expose evokes concerns such as how the many blatantly flawed claims in Secret Path could go undetected by all teaching facilities and what harm could come to students because of it.

Mr. MacBain also shares the true residential school experiences of other Ojibway students. Their stories are personal and moving. Throughout this book, the reader experiences sadness, anger, and finally an overwhelming insight into the enormous difficulties faced by students who were assigned to a residential school.

Lonely Death of an Ojibway Boy tells the truth of Charlie Wenjack’s life and death during his time spent at Cecilia Jeffery Indian Residential School. This young boy deserves to have his story told truthfully and there is much to learn from Charlie Wenjack’s true story.

Lonely Death of an Ojibway Boy is an important book and I am glad I read it.

****** ****** ******

By D.F. Feigoo,
Reviewed in Canada on January 10, 2024

The popular children’s book, “Secret Path,” shows “Chanie” Wenjack attending a Catholic residential school with evil nuns in full habit and an abusive Catholic priest. Even the Heritage Minutes short film shows him attending a residential school with a foul-tempered collared clergyman.

But the truth is that Charlie never attended a Catholic school at all, but a Presbyterian one, and none of the staff wore Roman collars. Neither was there any allegation that he had been sexually abused, and some of the school staff were indigenous themselves.

An informed reader may have known all this already, but Robert MacBain’s “Lonely Death of an Ojibway Boy” goes even deeper in getting the truth out.

This first thing that surprised me is that even the boy’s closest family members called him “Charlie.” One may call him by his Ojibwe name, but why not use the name he preferred?

The second thing that surprised me is that Charlie’s death could have been avoided had the adults who encountered him on his “secret path” intervened instead of sending him out in a blizzard in light clothing and without the means for survival.

It also seems to be the case that Charlie’s decision to leave the school with two friends was made on the spur of the moment, as he did not even bring the warmer clothing that was available to him in his locker.

But above all, what really astonished me was the treasure trove of warm and appreciative letters to the school principal sent by former students and parents. It seems to be the case that these many letters were locked away somewhere until MacBain found them and decided to publish them in this book.

These letters paint a picture that you would not expect, given how these schools have been depicted in “Secret Path,” Heritage Minutes, and elsewhere, and there are dozens of them – page after page.

Now, if only people would read them …