Council of Canadians Board of Directors member Garry John participated in the four-day Naskan Uxwal (I’m Going Home) walk this week.
John is a member of the St'at'imc at Tsal'alh (Seton Lake Indian Band), which is located along the shores of Seton and Anderson lakes in south-western British Columbia.
Prior to the beginning of the walk, the Lillooet News reported, "Sixty-six people have pre-registered so far as participants in an historic walk for survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, their families and friends. The walk, known as Naskan Uxwal (I’m Going Home), is intended to be a healing journey for St’at’imc students who attended the school, which closed in 1978. According to the Naskan Uxwal website, the four-day walk will 'acknowledge and help' the former students and their families. The healing journey process starts with a smudging of the grounds and buildings at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School."
The article highlights:
Day 1 (March 26) - At least 15 runners will take turns running the 100 kilometres from Kamloops to the Bonaparte Reserve near Cache Creek.
Day 2 (March 27) - Riders on horseback will ride as far as the Upper Hat Creek Junction, then the walk proceeds to Ts’kw’aylaxw (Pavilion) and then to Xaxli’p (Fountain).
Day 3 (March 28) - Walkers leave for Lillooet then to T’it’q’et (Lillooet Indian Band).
Day 4 (March 29) - Walkers head to Xwisten (Bridge River) and then arrive at Tsal’alh.
At the end of the walk, John commented, "Such a beautiful completion of a long journey. As long as it was it seemed like time just flew by. ...Our runners did their families and communities so much pride. The spiritual workers put in some long hours and we can't thank you enough. ...To the survivors I say welcome home. We're more complete then we were yesterday."
John also tells us, "After arriving in Tsal'alh plans were made to carry spirits to two other St'at'imc communities in Nquatqua and Lil'Wat."
Lillooet News explains, "The Kamloops Indian Residential School was part of the Canadian residential school system and one of the 130 schools for First Nations children that operated in Canada between 1874 and 1996. Thousands of children attended the school over the years, and were often forcibly removed from their homes once attendance became mandatory by law. Children were not allowed to speak their native language or practise their own spirituality at the school, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church."
Overall, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were sent by the federal government to residential schools in Canada.
More than 6,000 children died at those schools.
Mi'kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater has written, "Instead of receiving an education (most never received more than a grade six education), most were starved, beaten, tortured, raped and medically experimented on. In some schools, upwards of 40 per cent of Indigenous children never made it out alive. Nationally, the death rate for these children was one-in-25 -- higher than the one-in-26 death rate for enlistees in the Second World War."
Former prime minister Paul Martin has stated, "Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide."
John says, "In so called Canada's 150th year we gathered spirits from one of the institutions that were designed to kill the Indian in the child. These places were horrible. Thankful for the resilience and fierce determination of our peoples in nations across turtle island... we can talk about them... we're still here!!"