‘Walking Our Spirits Home’: Emotions high on 2nd day of B.C. journey honouring residential school victims

Hundreds of people took to the streets near Kamloops on Saturday for the second day of a three-day procession to honour the victims of Canada’s residential schools.

The Walking Our Spirits Home event was planned months in advance by the Adams Lake Indian Band, but has taken on powerful added emotional impact in the wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Read more: Calls grow for federal government to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Participants completed a 25-kilometre leg of the trek on Friday in five-kilometre increments. On Saturday, they departed Kamloops.

“It’s about honouring those who have passed before us and about moving forward with our future. And also, yes, very significant healing taking place,” Lynn Kennoras Duck Chief told Global News.

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“Intergenerational healing, healing for our generation — we’re the first generation survivors of the residential school system — for our children, for our grandchildren, and the unborn future.”

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Iris Jules told Global News she grew up among residential school survivors.

READ MORE: Victoria scraps online Canada Day event after remains found at Kamloops residential school 

“We didn’t understand why there was abuse and alcoholism. Our dad, he attended. We’re bringing him back,” she said.

“When we get to his grave marker, I’ll put the ribbon on and say we brought him home. It’s healing for us. We didn’t understand, and we didn’t understand his triggers. Now we understand why certain days triggered him.”

Indigenous leaders ask Catholic congregants to push for residential school apology

Lynn Chelsea told Global News she was walking for the truth and for her ancestors, but also for herself.

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“They survived. And I survived the people that went there,” she said.

READ MORE: Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology 

“The cruel injustices that happened and the love from the families we still get today. The growth that’s happened. I prefer to choose to live than to be stuck.”

Friday’s leg of the journey concluded with ceremonies and speakers at the Tk’emlúps Pow Wow Arbour.

Participants left from that same location Saturday and will conclude the walk Sunday at the Adams Lake Indian Band Recreation Centre in Chase with more ceremonies.

Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

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