Walk from site of former St. Joseph’s Residential School to Esk’etemc a healing journey

William Johnson, sets out to walk from the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School and home to Esk’etemc on Friday, Aug. 20. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)William Johnson, sets out to walk from the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School and home to Esk’etemc on Friday, Aug. 20. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Kristyna Stanislaus, left, Irene Lulua, and Sky Johnson participated in the Bringing Our Children Home walk from the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School site to Esk’etemc. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Kristyna Stanislaus, left, Irene Lulua, and Sky Johnson participated in the Bringing Our Children Home walk from the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School site to Esk’etemc. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
First Nations and non-First Nations gather at the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School before the walk begins Friday, Aug. 20. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)First Nations and non-First Nations gather at the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School before the walk begins Friday, Aug. 20. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Julianna Johnson, 82, attended St. Joseph’s Mission from 1948 to 1955. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Julianna Johnson, 82, attended St. Joseph’s Mission from 1948 to 1955. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Mary Thomas is originally from Canim Lake and attended the St. Joseph’s Mission from 1956 to 1962. Prior to walking from the mission to Esk’etemc, she walked from the mission to Canim Lake with six other people. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Mary Thomas is originally from Canim Lake and attended the St. Joseph’s Mission from 1956 to 1962. Prior to walking from the mission to Esk’etemc, she walked from the mission to Canim Lake with six other people. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Rose Wilson attended St. Joseph’s Mission for 10 years as did her mom and brother who attended for eight years. She is the proud mother of Phyllis Webstad, the founder of the Orange Shirt Day Society. (Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune)Rose Wilson attended St. Joseph’s Mission for 10 years as did her mom and brother who attended for eight years. She is the proud mother of Phyllis Webstad, the founder of the Orange Shirt Day Society. (Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune)
Faye Chelsea and Patricia Chelsea from Esk’etemc set out for the walk from the former St. Joseph’s Mission to Esk’etemc where they both work in administration. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Faye Chelsea and Patricia Chelsea from Esk’etemc set out for the walk from the former St. Joseph’s Mission to Esk’etemc where they both work in administration. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins and Hereditary Chief Anthony Chelsea walk along Mission Road with the site of the former St. Joseph Mission Residential School in the background. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins and Hereditary Chief Anthony Chelsea walk along Mission Road with the site of the former St. Joseph Mission Residential School in the background. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Jamie Regier and his daughter Lauren Regier participating in the healing journey. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Jamie Regier and his daughter Lauren Regier participating in the healing journey. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Sarah Sampson emerges from a bus transporting elders who were participating but unable to walk the distance from the former St. Joseph’s Mission site Esk’etemc. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Sarah Sampson emerges from a bus transporting elders who were participating but unable to walk the distance from the former St. Joseph’s Mission site Esk’etemc. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

A three-day walk to heal the spirits of residential school survivors in the Cariboo Chilcotin took place the weekend of Aug. 20.

Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins, whose community organized the walk from the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School south of Williams Lake to his community, welcomed everyone during the opening ceremony.

“I thank you to the people of the white Earth to come and support us in our walk and our healing journey to heal our spirit and to bring our children home,” Robbins said. “I want to thank you for lending your generous hearts to us today to help us in this journey.”

He described it as a marathon, not a sprint.

“We are all in this together. It’s been far too long for this to happen and now First Nations have a voice once again. With that voice we want to be heard, not just listened to anymore.”

Robbins thanked the staff who put the walk together, as well as the RCMP and Fisheries and Oceans Canada for helping with the walk.

“These are the ways relationships are struck. Please if you are a guest joining us on this walk, have a chat and talk with one another because we are all in this together. We cannot leave anybody behind.”

Each walker was asked to take a teddy bear from a collection on the grass and Rose Wilson said she took two because she was walking for other members of her family.

Wilson is the mom of Phyllis Webstad, whose story about having her new, orange shirt taken away at her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission, inspired Orange Shirt Day which is now recognized across the globe.

READ MORE: OUR HOMETOWN: Truth and reconciliation champion

“I’m so proud of my daughter,” Wilson said as she prepared to walk. “I’m glad that we came here to bring our children home — even if they are grown up or gone.”

As she walked she planned to think about her mom, brother and sister who all attended the residential school.

“Their spirits are still here, that’s why I picked up two teddies,” she said.

William Johnson said he attended St. Joseph’s for nine years, starting in 1953.

“It has a lot of history,” he said of the school.

Irene Lulua, whose home community is Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, attended St. Joseph’s Mission and said the experiences were not all good.

“Abuse and not being able to talk to my siblings and watching my little brothers crying and not being able to comfort them had me in tears,” she recalled.

Participating in the walk last weekend was a good experience.

“It was very emotional when I heard the drums as we finished walking each day. I’m glad I had the chance to walk with my extended family from Alkali,” Lulua said Tuesday.

The route of the walk followed one that some children used to run away from the school.

From the mission site the walkers proceeded to Onward Ranch, through the road on the ranch then up a rough road over the mountain and down to the Felker Lake Recreation site on the other side. On Saturday they walked to 2 Mile Lake near Springhouse and then on Sunday walked to the Esk’etemc Arbour where there was a ceremony and feast.

READ MORE: Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CaribooFirst Nationsresidential schools