A Saskatoon cyclist started his 3,000-plus km trip to every federally-recognized residential school site in Saskatchewan on Monday morning.
B’yauling Toni will be stopping at 20 sites in total, starting with Gordon’s Indian Residential School site in Punnichy, Sask.
Toni will be raising money for the Orange Shirt Society along the way, an organization that raises awareness about residential schools.
As a non-Indigenous Canadian, the trip has special meaning to Toni.
“I was seeing things that are happening in Canada with Indigenous issues and they’ve been happening for a long time, but there was never a lot of attention towards it,” Toni said. “And now it’s finally coming forward and people are paying attention to it.”
“I was thinking it’s on people like me, a settler, to take the first step of reconciliation.”
Toni decided to use his personal platform as a cyclist to raise awareness on this tour.
A timeline of Toni’s trip is available on his website, including more information about how to donate.
The trip is expected to take just under a month, with Toni set to arrive back home in Saskatoon around Aug. 25.
Toni is no stranger to long bike trips; in 2018 after graduating high school, he cycled a lap around the world in an attempt to be the youngest person in the world to do so at 18.
“Now, hopefully I can use that platform to raise awareness and money for a good cause.”
Toni has also partnered with non-profit organization Chokecherry Studios that held moccasin-making workshops in Saskatoon. A total of 20 pairs of infant moccasins were made which Toni will be delivering to each location in memoriam of residential school children.
Toni has contacted most of the First Nations and said one of the reasons he is going on this trip is to meet community members.
“It’s so important to embrace the culture and celebrate it and learn about it,” Toni said.
“I think that we all, all Canadians, have a very big connection to the genocide that unfortunately happened on our land. It’s up to non-Indigenous people to take that first step and go out there and strive to reconcile with Indigenous people and to give restitution for the things that happened.”
There is no specific financial goal for the trip, but Toni said all money donated will go directly to Orange Shirt Society and the more funds donated, the better.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
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