Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.
The Sikh Riders of Canada began its second journey to Kamloops, B.C. on Saturday, a convoy to “honour the lost souls” at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
The national non-profit group left Abbotsford around 9 a.m.. They will join truckers and other motorcyclists in communities along the way, bringing about 600 people altogether to the First Nation.
The convoy, led in partnership with the We Stand in Solidarity truckers group, aims to memorialize the children who died in residential schools, including Kamloops Indian Residential School, where Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc detected more than 200 suspected unmarked burial sites last year.
“This is our second annual ride to Kamloops in memory of the lost souls there,” said Daljit Sandhu, a member of the motorcycle club.
“We are trying to bring awareness about the minorities and communities out there. We stand in solidarity with the community.”
Some members of the group wore stickers honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on their helmets and vests emblazoned with the Medicine Wheel. A truck in their group hauled a trailer whose decals read, ‘Every Child Matters.’
The Sikh Riders of Canada drives for a variety of causes, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It has done food and blanket runs for those experiencing homelessness, fundraised more than $5,000 for survivors of wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alta., and supported flood recovery efforts in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
The riders will be joined in Kamloops by Kelowna’s Mike Otto and about 25 other truckers from We Stand in Solidarity.
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“We’re doing it again this year to create awareness and keep the conversation going,” Otto explained, and support to our Indigenous people here in Canada.”
He noted the deplorable treatment of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people across the country that continues in various forms today.
Riding shotgun in Otto’s vehicle was intergenerational survivor Cheryl Wood of the Nisga’a Nation, whose aunt attended Kamloops Indian Residential School and never came home. She is one of Le Estcwicwéy̓ — the missing children.
“I’m feeling mixed emotions,” she told Global News as the convoy made its way to Kamloops. “It’s very uplifting to be a part of this right now, and feeling all the feels of everything.”
Wood’s father is a day school survivor, and many of her other relatives attended residential school as well. One of her aunts died just 10 years after she left residential school, suffering from trauma.
“She’s on my mind,” said Wood. “I’m thinking of all the children who never made it home, and the children who did make it home and did not recover.”
Wood said she knows her dad would be proud of her taking part in Saturday’s convoy. Speaking about the campaign of solidarity and all those who showed up gave rise to a lump in her throat, she added.
“It means a lot. It’s very uplifting for our future,” she said. “It’s feeling very hopeful that all of our nations come together, and understanding how the Medicine Wheel comes together as we all move together in same the direction.”
The riders will be escorted to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc pow-wow arbour by the RCMP for food, ceremonies and a rally that will run until 7 p.m.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc observed the one-year memorial for Le Estcwicwéy̓ on May 23, four days before it revealed the suspected unmarked graves to the rest of the world.
The nation is in the early stages of planning for the exhumation of Le Estcwicwéy̓, including their identification and return to their home communities. The delicate process will be led by a 13-member committee including former chiefs, councillors and elders, and is expected to take several years.
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.