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Saskatchewan horse ride to raise awareness for Indigenous children in care completes final year

The QBOW Bring Home the Children Ride ends after 10 days of raising awareness of Indigenous children who were lost to the welfare system, residential schools and Sixties Scoop. Photo provided: Carmen Fourstar

A group of horse riders ended their 10-day trek across various Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to raise awareness for the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care.

In 2019, the Qu’Appelle Beardy’s & Okemasis Wahpeton (QBOW) Child and Family Services started a horse ride called Bring Home The Children. The QBOW Bring Home the Children Ride team committed to do the ride for four years.

Over the years, the focus evolved from children in the child welfare system to children of the Indian residential schools and Sixties Scoop.

Read more: Federal Court certifies class action for off-reserve Indigenous kids in foster care

“It’s an awakening,” said Lois Isnana, QBOW executive director. “I’m a little bit sad. We’re happy today because there’s a celebration here of the children there. The ride itself will live on in spirit.”

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The QBOW Ride first started their trek on Aug. 3, 2022 at Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation (BOCN) and travelled to Wahpeton Dakota Nation, Whitecap Dakota Nation, Wood Mountain, Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation and ended the ride in Piapot First Nation on Aug. 12.

Every community greeted the group of riders and team members with activities, food, ceremonies and dances. There were many dialogues surrounding Indigenous children in the welfare system.

Throughout the years, the team members learned that ceremony and the power of horses have brought healing to those they have encountered.

Vehicles follow the team of riders throughout the 10 day journey. Photo provided: Carmen Fourstar

“We know we are all horse nations. Doesn’t matter which nation you’re from in Saskatchewan,” said Isnana. “We know that the horses … have healing power.”

During the horse ride, Isnana was gifted a horse necklace, a symbol of the work she was involved in during her final days as the QBOW executive director. Her position will be taken over by Wahpeton Dakota Nation member Carmen Fourstar.

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“This ride is something that has given me the opportunity to visit and meet people (to) hear their stories,” she said.

“Being in this ride has allowed me to gain so much knowledge. I learned from the people here and I’m just so grateful. So, (the necklace) is my symbol of hope, of being able to carry on with it. I’ll wear it with pride that I really finished this together.”

Read more: Number of children in Saskatchewan’s care hits 11-year high, with 86% identified as Indigenous

The QBOW Bring Home The Children Ride grew from 20 people in the first year to over 70 people in 2022. The purpose of the ride was to reach many nations across the province, and the impact they brought to many is what Isnana will miss.

She and the team hope many will be inspired to keep the legacy going.

“We hope that this will start our communities…on some of their own activities,” said Isnana. “What we’re hoping … is that our children, our communities will continue to work towards healing in our in our communities, for our community members, for our children and the next generations.”

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