A tired group of people walked into LeBourdais Park on July 29.
The Warrior Walk for Healing Nations, a group of people travelling on foot from Whitehorse to Kamloops to honour the 215 children found in an unmarked grave at a former residential school.
The journey has not only been taxing physically, but also emotionally.
“I think the enormity of the impacts of residential schools has been heavy on our hearts,” walker and organizer Jacqueline Shorty said. “Thinking of all the things Indigenous Canadians have had to endure has been tough. It’s been hard, and it’s stretched us in every way possible, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.”
Indigenous leaders from around Quesnel were on hand to greet the walkers, and provide them with much needed refueling with food and song.
Telegraph Creek resident Jamie Henyu came up with the idea to do the walk, partnering with the Northern Nations Alliance non-profit group.
“I wanted to honour the 215, so at first I decided to grow my hair, but it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “The Creator said ‘you’re gonna walk to Kamloops.’ I kind of hemmed and hawed about it, and it took me about five hours to make the decision to walk.”
During their over 1,900 km trip from Whitehorse to Quesnel, more unmarked graves at residential school across Canada have been discovered.
“If there was any naivety about what it is, it’s gone,” Shorty said. “It’s like an awakening, a huge awakening to something that was heavier than we ever anticipated… As we’re getting ready to head into Kamloops the thing that is heavy on my mind is how do we share that story. Some of the things we’ve heard have been horrendous.”
The group has stopped at communities along the way, even witnesses the demolition of a former residential school. Shorty recalled hearing the story of a survivor who was forced out of bed in the middle of the night to dig the graves for a now-dead classmate.
Shorty called on all Canadians to face the truth of residential schools.
“That statistical number that goes over 2,000 that people intellectually hear and don’t attach to it emotionally — for a moment go into your heart and think of it as your own child,” she said.
Shorty said her mother, who was residential school survivor tried to shield her from the truth behind residential school abuses.
“She just wanted to save me from that pain,” she said. “Regardless of how much she shielded us, we’re seeing the truth now. We as Indigenous Canadians have always known this truth, we’ve been shielded by our parents from this, and now the truth is out.”
For Henyu, the final 400 km to Kamloops is a blessing, especially when connecting with communities along the way.
“It was the right thing to do, but I never expected any of this,” he said as Chad Stump played guitar to a cheering crowd. “This is just so amazing. It’s been like this every place we stopped… If I had to walk some more I would. It’s such a wonderful cause to walk for it’s hard to quit now. Before I started I never walked more than to my truck.”
The walkers hope to arrive in Kamloops on August 9.
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