Commemorative walkers return home to feast

By Bryan Eneas
June 26, 2016 - 9:06am

The Residential School system created a dynamic rift between children, parents and even grandparents.

On Saturday, June 25, some of the victims of residential schools made it home to their families and for their families, on their own accord.

Their journey started a few days ago, when they walked away from their former school, a place which they said housed so many bad memories for them.

Since June 21, the walkers have made stops in Little Red River, Montreal Lake, and Weyakwin, before making the last stop for many on the journey, in La Ronge. On Sunday, June 26 a smaller group will be headed to Stanley Mission, where there will be a feast and celebration for those returning survivors.

“When we were in Prince Albert, I was asking myself what am I doing here? But when we made it to Little Red River, we were all (individually) introduced, and everyone was clapping for me. That's when my spirits started to rise,” Donnie Roberts said.

Roberts is from the Lac La Ronge Indian Reserve and is one of 10 people who managed to complete four days of walking. From the Allen Bird Memorial Center to the urban reserve in La Ronge, he ended up trekking a total of 106 km. This isn't his first walk of this distance however; in 2001 he and a different group made a journey from Prince Albert to La Ronge for diabetes awareness.

Throughout Roberts' walk he said he often questioned himself, but he felt something keep pushing him on.

“I kept thinking of people I grew up with, a lot of them, they're gone now... One of my best buddies in residence, he committed suicide when we were 14, I was walking for him. I picked up two rocks (at Allen Bird Memorial Center) and I'm going to throw them in the river sometime when I'm alone,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the walk has helped his healing process.

“It made me a lot stronger. It made (me feel) like everything is going away in my mind... I feel more levelled out,” Roberts said.

The walk was organized by Nancy Mirasty, Sallie McLeod, and Tom Roberts to do help survivors cope, to instill a sense of healing in these people, who have either never properly addressed their need to heal, or who are in the process of healing themselves.

“It's started to help, it's going to take a while but it’s good to get a start, for many of us. It's going to take some time to think on everything because we've been so busy. We're grateful for all the help for all of the trip,” Mirasty said.

For a majority of the walkers, La Ronge is home. The community gathered at Kitsaki Hall for a feast, and a few words from Chief Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, along with words from a few participants. Traditional fare such as smoked moose meat, rabbit stew, and local walleye, loaded up three folding tables for hungry walkers to eat.

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