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Garnet Angeconeb

Through hope there is healing. Through healing there is restoration. Through restoration there is forgiveness. Through forgiveness there is peace.

Garnet Angeconeb is an Anishnaabe man from the Lac Seul First Nation in Northern Ontario. He grew up on his family’s traditional territory, until the age of seven, when he was forced by the Government of Canada to go to Pelican Indian Residential School. Garnet suffered many negative effects of government policies in the decades following his years at the school. Despite those personal hardships, he became a journalist, a community leader, and a respected elder in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. The stories on the pages of this website belong to Garnet; they represent his journey from residential school to reconciliation, and his unrivalled courage in sharing his life story with all Canadians.

Garnet is a natural communicator and a born leader. At a time when nobody was acknowledging the horrors of the residential school system, Garnet stood up to the institutions that allowed crimes to be committed against him and other Aboriginal children. Every single video segment on this website lays bare his strength of character, through his openness, honesty, and integrity. Remarkably, and despite his experiences in this country, Garnet channeled his pain and anger into a strong voice; a voice that he uses today to call for social justice. By telling his story on this website, Garnet hopes to bring others along on his journey toward reconciliation.

In the last decade or so, Garnet was diagnosed with Kennedy’s Disease, a neurological muscular degenerative disorder which has confined him to a wheelchair. It affects his energy level as well as his speech, and results in extreme fatigue at times. Challenges of this nature, however, have never slowed Garnet down in his work as a bridge-builder between cultures: He was Sioux Lookout’s first Anishinaabe municipal councillor; he is a founding member of the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee; he was a board member of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation; and he is a Recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award (2002) and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award (2012). Most recently (December 2012), Garnet was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for voluntary service.

Many Canadians have never met an Aboriginal person, or a survivor of Indian Residential Schools. This 21-minute video aims to change that. We want you to get to know Garnet, and to learn about our shared history through his story. 

In 1996, Leonard Hands, the dormitory supervisor at Pelican Residential School, was sent to jail for abusing 19 boys at the school. He died several years later, before Garnet had the opportunity to forgive him in person. In this video segment, you will hear excerpts from Garnet’s forgiveness ceremony, held in May 2002, on the site of the former school at Pelican. The songs (just snippets included here) were part of the ceremony.

Part of Garnet’s healing process is turning to elders for traditional knowledge and teachings. Learning through oral history is a cornerstone of Aboriginal tradition. So when Garnet’s 93-year-old great-uncle Henry (Ogemah) Ackewance summoned him to his home on the Lac Seul First Nation, Garnet went. Henry wanted to tell Garnet about what happened to him when he attended residential school, beginning around 1927. During their conversation (in Ojibwe), Henry told Garnet details about early life on the reserve that possibly no other living person knows. He also shared many stories from the early days of Pelican Indian Residential School. Sadly, Henry passed away one year after this interview, taking so much knowledge with him.