Hundreds of people have set out on a journey along the South Thompson River from Kamloops to B.C.’s Shuswap, hoping to recapture the spirits lost to the city’s former residential school. Participants gathered at Pioneer Park in downtown Kamloops on Friday morning for the commencement of Walking Our Spirits Home, a three-day walk organized by the Adams Lake Indian Band to hike the 64 kilometers to Chase, B.C.
Following the ceremony, Band Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse, other First Nation leaders, and hundreds of walkers crossed the Red Bridge from the park to the other side of the river, then walked four kilometers to the site of the former residential school, where preliminary findings from ground-penetrating radar revealed the remains of up to 215 children two weeks ago.
“There are a lot of lost spirits and souls, and… everyone who has been to the school has left a piece of them there,” Arnouse told Shelley Joyce.
The mob began walking the 18 kilometers down Shuswap Road from the residential school to the Lafarge Bridge at noon, reaching at roughly 6 p.m. PT. They will restart their journey at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with the goal of arriving at the Adams Lake Indian Band gym in Chase, B.C., about noon on Sunday.
During the walk, elders will lead prayers and distribute tobacco for participants to sprinkle over the river water, as part of a tradition to honor the spirits of the children who died in residential schools. According to Arnouse, the trek is a healing process for Indigenous tribes.
“When you think of the crimes and everything that has happened, and the confirmation of finding the remains of at least 215 children at this time… it is difficult, but we need to recover.” Arnouse, along with his mother and several other family members, attended the Kamloops residential school.
He expressed optimism that the trek will help him heal from his previous scars.