Remembering a Tireless Advocate
In a poignant ceremony on Saturday, September 30th, at 10 a.m., the late Michael Cachagee was remembered for his unwavering advocacy for Residential School Survivors. The event was held at the site of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, where Cachagee dedicated decades to championing the rights of his fellow survivors.
A Journey of Healing and Resilience
Cachagee’s story is one of immense resilience, marked by his survival and triumph over the adversities he faced in residential schools. From the tender age of three until 16, he endured the horrors of St. John’s Indian Residential School in Chapleau, the Bishop Horden Indian Residential School in Moose Factory, and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie. His experiences, encompassing physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, drove his lifelong commitment to healing and justice.
A Vision Realized: Mishkiki Chichakk Kamik (Medicine Spirit Lodge)
Among Cachagee’s many achievements was the founding of the Children of Shingwauk in 1981, a pioneering initiative that brought together Residential School Survivors in Canada. His visionary spirit also led to the establishment of the National Residential School Survivor Society and the Ontario Indian Residential School Support Services, later known as Weecheetowin Support Services.
Central to his dream was the creation of a haven for survivors and their families – the Mishkiki Chichakk Kamik, or Medicine Spirit Lodge. After years of meticulous planning, consultations, and negotiations, Crown land was secured in March 2023 at the former site of a Junior Rangers Camp on Little Lake Wenebegon, an hour’s drive south of Chapleau. This lodge, the first of its kind in Canada, will stand as a testament to Cachagee’s enduring vision and dedication.
A Call for Support and Recognition
At the heart of Cachagee’s legacy lies the unanimous resolution passed at the June 13-15, 2023, All Ontario Chiefs Conference. The resolution, which garnered overwhelming support, endorsed the Mishkiki Chichakk Kamik and backed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #21. This action urges the federal government to allocate funding for healing facilities, acknowledging the crucial role they play in the reconciliation process.
Chief Scott McLeod of Nipissing First Nation, a staunch supporter of Cachagee’s vision, emphasized the collective effort invested in bringing the healing lodge to fruition. He called upon the federal government, expressing the urgent need for a funding commitment in the 2024 budget.
A Nation Pays Tribute
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, recognizing Cachagee’s remarkable contributions, expressed gratitude during the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in 2021. The entire nation now unites in honoring Michael Cachagee’s legacy, standing in solidarity with his vision for healing, justice, and reconciliation.