A 2,300-kilometre journey is nearing its end for the Warrior Walkers.
The walkers, led by Jamie Henyu of Tahltan people, arrived in 100 Mile House Thursday afternoon as part of their trek from Whitehorse to the Kamloops Indian Residental School. Henyu started the walk on June 26 after receiving a vision telling him to honour the 215 children found buried on the school grounds. More bodies have since been uncovered at schools across the country.
“It hit home so bad because there are so many back home (in Telegraph Creek) who went to residential school,” Henyu said.
Along the way he said they’re also honouring and meeting with survivors of residential schools and hearing their stories. As he walks, Henyu said he’ll pick up new companions along the way.
Blanche Pilkington, who joined the march in Williams Lake, said she decided to participate because her mother was a residential school survivor.
“The impact has been detrimental to me and my siblings for cultural reasons,” she said, as she walked the stretch from the 108 Heritage site to 100 Mile House. “Her traditional language, she never shared with us. I’m doing this for her.”
Henyu said he’s found the walk to be amazing barring a few incidents of people trying to stop them or yelling insults. Typically he said people have shown their support by honking their cars, feeding them and walking alongside them.
The 16 walkers briefly stopped traffic on Highway 97 near the Tim Horton’s intersection, where they sang, danced and drummed. A few dozen 100 Mile House citizens came out to wave and show their support while motorists honked in support. The group was then met at the South Cariboo Visitor Centre by elders and members of the Canim Lake Band doing their own drumming.
The two songs quickly intermingled as the Warrior Walkers thanked Chief Helen Henderson for welcoming them onto her people’s land.
After a series of short speeches about the continued importance of remembering the survivors of residential schools and respecting the right of First Nations peoples, the walkers got into their support vehicles and drove to the Canim Lake Band where they were treated to a feast.
Canim Lake Band Coun. Carl Archie was on hand to greet the walkers at the tourism centre, along with 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall and Coun. Chris Pettman. Archie said the band was excited to be hosting the walkers and hoped they’d be able to visit Canim Lake itself during their visit.
“They acknowledged they were in our territory and did a dance to thank us for doing so,” Archie said. “It feels good for them to acknowledge our survivors who went to that school, including my own family, and the children who died there.”
The Warrior Walkers resumed their walk to Clinton on Friday where they met with the Whispering Pines First Nations and later the Bonaparte First Nation, north of Cache Creek. As Henyu neared the end of his journey, he said he’s feeling a mix of emotions.
“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in Kamloops. It’s going to be tough, but exciting at the same time.”