Candice George had found the strength to continue completing a long walk home after repeating the names of four young boys who tragically froze to death 84 years ago after fleeing from Lejac Residential School.
Until the end of this month George invites everyone to join the ReconciliACTION Walk to remember survivors and those who did not return home while raising awareness and improving their own mental health and wellness.
Her goal is for registrants to help reach 6,509 kilometres by walking a minimum of 1.2 kilometres three times a week in honour of the boys and every unmarked grave currently found at former residential school sites across Canada.
George said the boys’ deaths have always been known by Indigenous people who would grow up hearing stories about what happened at Lejac.
Numerous relatives of George’s had attended the residential school, including her grandfather, mother and aunt.
“I’ve known for a while now but since the findings of the 215 [unmarked graves] in May I’ve always been wanting to share and raise more awareness about the impacts of residential school,” she said.
Last month, an opportunity arose when the Warriors Walk for Healing Nations completed their 6,000 kilometer walk from Whitehorse, Yukon to Kamloops, B.C. where the unmarked graves of children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
When the walkers had come through Fraser Lake, George said she had joined them in their journey through Dakelh territory to Secwépemc territory.
“The journey that I took in August with the warriors was completely eye-opening for me,” she said.
“I’ve always known that our people had been negatively impacted by residential school and colonization, and I’ve always wanted to do something but I didn’t know what. So by walking and experiencing healing myself, I wanted to share that.”
George said elders told her that every step they take is a prayer.
Although her own start to the ReconciliACTION Walk was cut short after having developed a nasty blister that had rapidly become infected after halfway into her second day of walking 20 kilometers three days a week, others have stepped up to take her place.
Individuals from across B.C. and other provinces, even as far as Newfoundland, have registered. George said she hopes schools will also take part.
“Walking with us in solidarity is really important as an ally, so I’m hoping and encouraging all of our allies to participate and continue to spread awareness because as Indigenous people we have experienced the negative impacts from residential school and colonization first hand, but we can’t be the only voice raising awareness,” she added.
“It takes a lot out of us mentally and emotionally, so it’s really important that our allies help with spreading awareness.”
The word ReconciliACTION is in reference to the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action that George described as a blueprint for the healing and changes that need to happen.
By participating in the walk, George said they are not only taking action to address and work towards the calls to action and implementing them but spreading awareness while healing through a healthy habit.