A three-day walk gets underway this morning (Friday, Aug. 20) from the former site of St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School near Williams Lake. Residential school survivors will walk from the mission to Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake).
St. Joseph’s Mission became a residential school for Indigenous students in 1886 and closed in 1981.
Many children from Esk’etemc attended the school.
Ashley George is co-ordinating the Esk’etemc Bringing Our Children Home event and said the walk will follow the route elders have said many children used to run away from the school.
“We heard from a couple of our elders on the reserve some of the ways that they did run over the mountain and where they would pop out at the other side,” George said.
“This is why our route changed from going through Williams Lake and going over the mountain because we wanted it to be for the elders and for their healing. So by us going the route they used to run away, it is them walking the same way they would walk when they ran away from St. Joseph’s Mission to get home.”
The event will begin at 9 a.m. with an opening drum song and the walkers will depart at 10 a.m.
From the mission site walkers will go toward Onward Ranch, then climb up a very rough road to go over the mountain.
“A few vehicles will be driving, but the majority of people will be walking and we recommend as little vehicles as possible on these roads,” George said, noting there will be water stations and portable toilet stations set up along the way.
The Williams Lake RCMP, Oceans and Fisheries Canada, and the Williams Lake Fire Department are all helping to keep everyone safe, she added.
On Friday the walkers will arrive at the Felker Lake Recreation site a cleansing ceremony, dinner, Lehel and cards and camping.
After breakfast on Saturday, and a welcome and opening, the walk will proceed toward 2 Mile Lake where there will be camping, dinner, bear dancers and dancing.
Sunday after breakfast, a welcome and opening drum song, the walk will proceed to the Esk’etemc arbor where there will be a feast at 3 p.m. and a celebration at 5 p.m.
George said as of Thursday, Aug. 19, there were 95 people registered for the walk and she anticipated more would show up to register early Friday.