Frances Whiskeychan, Patrick Etherington and TRC Walkers fill up at St.Andrew's United Church.
It’s been 20-days for a group of seven brave people called the Oshapawishak – the Truth and Reconciliation Walkers – walking all the way from Cochrane to North Bay. The TRC Walkers arrived in North Bay Sunday night.
Their journey is far from over as they continue on to Ottawa, to arrive in time for the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the end of May.
Patrick Etherington coordinatied the walk to help raise awareness on the relationship between Indigenous Nations and the Canadian government, specifically about Indian Residential Schools. He is a survivor of the Indian Residential School, St. Anne’s in Fort Albany. He started life in the James Bay area, from Treaty 9 Moose Cree First Nation.
“The government is trying to project to the impacted survivors that ‘we did our part’. But the impact is unravelling to the next generation. The effect on us needs more attention with full participation. “
IRS Survivor Frances Whiskeychan and supportor Nipissing First Nation Sharon Turncliffe walk the highway towards North Bay Sunday.
As an example of the far reaching negative effects of forced colonialism on Indigenous Peoples, Etherington tells of a man the group met on the road last week. “The survivor walked with us. He talked about the impacts from the residential school system and how they in turn affected his children. And now those children have given him grandchildren that are affected by what the government did to us. Survivors have had an early disruption in family relationships. “
“My partner and I have to handle the emotional and mental pain of being survivors. At the same time, our traditional, cultural and ceremonial values were uprooted. The government can’t think they will be done with us. Our new relationship is just getting started.”
Etherington says the TRC Walkers have had many challenges on the stretch of highway since Matheson. “There were a lot of hills, and the weather wasn’t good with snow, wind, rain and sleet.”
There are two Patrick Etherington’s on the trek, father and son. Patrick Etherington Junior has been on 10 such walks. He praised the St. Andrew’s Youth Group for undertaking their own fundraiser called Walk a Mile in Their Shoes. “They walked for us. That’s real nice of them buying us shoes and socks.”
Etherington Senior praised the support from the United Church. “They have been a tremendous help.” As the TRC Walkers came into the city Sunday evening, they were welcomed to a potluck supper at St. Andrew’s Church to share with supporters.
Patrick Etherington Jr. beamed at the food laid out in the TRC Walker's honour. As he filled his plate, he looked up and smiled, “I sure will sleep well tonight.”