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Truth and reconciliation walkers nearing goal

Friday September 30, 2011
Six walkers from Nishnawbe Aski Nation are approaching the end of their three-month journey to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada national event in Halifax Oct. 26-29. (submitted photo)

Six walkers from Nishnawbe Aski Nation have almost completed their three-month journey to an upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada national event on the east coast.

“We’ve been busy in this walk from Restigouche, on the New Brunswick-Quebec border,” said Patrick Etherington Sr., one of seven walkers who set out July 29 from Cochrane to walk 2,200 kilometres to the Oct. 26-29 TRC national event in Halifax, N.S. “We’ve been busy doing presentations to the communities, talking to people and accessing radio time. We’ve been able to talk to young kids, youth and survivors.”

Etherington had a difficult time when he and the other walkers passed by the Shrine of Cap de la Madeleine in Trois-Rivieres, Que. The shrine is operated by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who also operated the residential school Etherington attended in Fort Albany.

“That was overwhelming,” he said. “It was hard for me, but I was glad to be with these young men and with my son. That was a healing experience for me to go through it because it brought back all kinds of memories.”

Etherington and the other walkers, Patrick Etherington Jr., Frances Whiskeychan, Robert Hunter, Sam Koosees and James Kioke, also stayed at the Anglican Church Bishop’s house in Quebec City.

“We had a good conversation, the bishop and I and the walkers,” Etherington said, explaining the conversation was about the impact to the congregation from the closing of Anglican churches and a lack of priests in rural communities.

The walkers attended church service at the Anglican Church in Quebec City and communicated with the congregation.

“After we had a sit-around with them,” Etherington said. “That was another eye-opener and the beginning in an exploration of what this Truth and Reconciliation is heading hopefully towards.”

The walkers also met with other residential school survivors and talked with community members and leaders along their journey.

“For example, we were with young children 11 and under,” Etherington said about one community visit. “They were horrified in terms of what they heard about some of the things that happened in residential school.”

The walkers have faced a variety of weather conditions on their journey, including scorching 30 C temperatures from Cochrane to Ottawa and cool conditions along the Saint Lawrence River.
“When we started to see the Saint Lawrence River shore, it started to remind us of back home because of the shoreline and seeing the far off water, thinking it was the bay and the fall hunt coming in,” Etherington said.

As of Sept. 16, the walkers had about 500 kilometres left to walk to the TRC national event in Halifax.

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