Six days after Landyn Toney set off for a 157-kilometre walk to raise awareness about the trauma of residential schools, the 12-year-old boy has arrived at his destination and gathered support from coast to coast along the way.
Landyn left on his journey from his house in Valley, N.S. — not far from the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School — on July 1 and arrived at the Annapolis Valley First Nation on Tuesday evening to a hero’s welcome.
“It feels pretty good, Emotional and really nice,” said a visibly-tired Landyn to the media and supporters who had gathered to hear him talk.
He was inspired to begin his walk after learning about the unmarked graves where hundreds of Indigenous children are buried at the sites of former Indian residential schools in the country.
Landyn’s Mi’kmaw culture is something he’s always been proud of, and something he’s always wanted to share. By embarking on this walk and raising money with an online fundraiser, he and his mother hoped they could turn anger into positive change.
“What I accomplished is pretty big. I’m going to be doing a bigger walk every single year on Canada Day,” he said.
“It’s a pretty big walk and I just wanted to get my word out there and a lot of people still don’t know about residential schools and that’s why I did this walk.”
His mother, Marsha McClellan, was alongside Landyn during his journey and says she has no doubt his fight to bring awareness will continue.
“I think it’s great,” she said.
“I think our younger generations need to step up and use their voices more. Our older generations are tired.”
Landyn’s cousin, Nikki Lloyd, joined him for part of his walk and says she’s amazed by everything he has accomplished.
“I can’t even say enough how proud I am of him. He’s done this whole journey and it’s absolutely amazing. He brought so much awareness,” she said.
“Our great-grandmother was a residential school survivor. Our grandparents, they were rescued from their principal so they ended up not having to go. So the amount of awareness he has shown is absolutely incredible and the amount of support that he’s had is outstanding.”
Lloyd says she believes that Landyn’s efforts will have a lasting impact, and hopefully inspire others.
“I hope after this a lot of people open their eyes and get educated on everything that has happened to our people especially with the residential schools and I hope that they’re actually able to listen to the stories and listen to the survivors, because we are still here and Landyn is a prime example of that,” she said.
Landyn’s GoFundMe page has raised more than $32,000. The initial goal was just $20,000.
According to the page, Landyn will be accepting recommendation letters on where the money is most needed, and a committee of six people will help him decide.