It was over 100 kilometres away, but when Splatsin children were forced to attend residential school, many were taken to Kamloops.
On Friday, Splatsin members finished an emotional and intensely personal journey to walk those students’ spirits home.
The walk travelled from the former residential school in Kamloops to the Splatsin Community Centre, outside of Enderby, stopping for two ceremonies along the way.
“It was really important for the walkers because what they did is every step along the way they were praying for those spirits to come home,” said Splatsin Chief Kukpi7 Wayne Christian.
“For them, as children usually of survivors of residential school, it brought more clarity to them in terms of why things are the way they are and what now they need to do to heal.”
The walk follows the discovery of what’s believed to be roughly 200 burial sites near the former residential school in Kamloops, after the search of only a small area of the residential school site.
“We wanted to bring the children home. It was very emotional hearing about the children being found there,” said Splatsin Councillor Theresa William.
“For me personally I was on a mission to get the children home. I wanted to just keep moving forward. The more I did the better I felt. What I was thinking about is, ‘I can’t stop. I’ve got to make sure that I get our children home.'”
William was among a core group who walked the entire route, more than 100 km, over five days.
She described feeling like a big weight had been lifted off her shoulders when she finished the walk.
“We don’t know if the children that were found are Splatsin band members, but we gave them a safe place to come home to. We brought them to not only one graveyard but we brought them to both,” William said, after the walking group held ceremonies at Splatsin cemeteries.
“My mother was in residential school and when you are in residential school you leave a piece behind you…So all the people that went to residential school hopefully I brought them some peace, gave them a piece of them back. The people that passed away I want to ensure that their spirits are brought home because I know a lot of them have left their spirits there.”
Asked about what she will take away from her experience during the walk, William also spoke about the emotional impact of residential school.
“Residential school has taken away that word love and trust. I’m hoping that from here we can really start to love ourselves and love each other as people,” she said.
The walk was intensely personal for many participants.
“I’m a survivor’s kid….this walk is healing and a part of this is for me to just bring our power back because it was taken away. All our power was taken away and I just feel like this is a way for us to grab it back,” said walk participant Setatkwa.
“For me, this walk represented the pride in who we are as a people and to stop the silence about it. There is not a lot in the media about what is going on with these children.”