The legacy of Charlie Hunter will live on through an annual scholarship named in his honour.
Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig Centre of Excellence in Anishinaabe Education announced on Nov. 7 that the Charlie Hunter Scholarship Fund will be awarded annually to a student who is descended from a family member that attended residential school.
Charlie Hunter was a Weenusk First Nation member who died while attending the St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany. Charlie, who was 13, drowned while trying to save another boy’s life who had fallen through the ice.
Claudette Chevrier, a resolution health support worker with the Children of Shingwuak Alumni Association, said the scholarship will ensure the legacy of Charlie lives on.
“Charlie’s brave act will never be forgotten,” she said.
Charlie’s death left many unanswered questions and years of grief for the Hunter family.
After he died, Charlie was buried in Moosonee, 515 kilometres from home, without the consent of his parents, Mike and Pauline.
For 37 years, his family sought answers into the circumstances surrounding his death, and wondered why they were never consulted about his burial arrangements.
“Over the years, my dad has tried to deal with those issues,” said Joyce Hunter, Charlie’s sister. She said he tried getting answers from the church, Indian Affairs and police as to who was responsible for his death. He even filed an Access to Information request but got nowhere.
“Their biggest wish was to have him come home,” Joyce said.
In 2010, a frustrated and tired father asked Joyce and her sister Christine to take up the fight. After the sisters faced the same obstacles as their father, the story of Charlie emerged in national media last year.
An account was set up by the National Residential School Survivors Society to raise funds to bring Charlie home and donations poured in from people across Canada.
Within two weeks, the family received enough funds to bring Charlie home. In August 2011, the body of Charlie was flown to Peawanuck where he was laid to rest.
“I feel like my parents can stop looking south, and feel like a member of the family is home,” Joyce Hunter said.
The donations left a surplus of $4,000, and Chevrier promised the Hunter family to establish a scholarship named in honour of Charlie.
In February, the Charlie Hunter Scholarship Fund will be awarded to both a male and female full-time student at either Algoma University or Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. Next year, it will be awarded to a male and female from each university.
In the third year, Chevrier said they hope to include Sault College.
Chevrier said the recipients will be determined by a committee and will not be academic-based.
“We didn’t pick any direct course of study or highest mark,” she said. “We wanted to keep it more open.”
Chevrier will be inviting the parents of Charlie to the gala in February to present the inaugural award.
Joyce said Charlie’s memory and legacy will move forward with the scholarship.
“It will remind people that the residential school era did happen and Charlie lived and died as part of that era,” she said.
Charlie died saving another person’s life, which is a testament to his character, Joyce added.
“We really hope the people that get this scholarship will go on to do great things in the spirit of compassion and kindness in the way that Charlie gave his life,” she said.
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