On Aug. 3, Shuswap Band member Sasha Eugene took to Facebook to announce her intention to walk from Kamloops to the Shuswap administration building.
“I have made a promise to keep educating, speaking, and fighting for any form of justice for our Indigenous Nation,” she wrote in her Facebook post. “And to keep this promise and to show thanks for everything I have learned and gained, I have decided that I will leave to bring the spirits home from Kamloops on Aug. 20, 2021, at sunrise.”
This will be Eugene’s second medicine walk. The first occurred at the start of July when she walked from the St. Eugene Mission to the Shuswap administration building. Sasha continued her undaunted walk through all kinds of weather, rain, thunder, hail, lightning, and wind. She arrived in the early evening of July 5, leading a large group of people that joined her in a show of solidarity.
“How can I write in words the many emotions I felt and continue to feel?” Sasha said in her post of her first walk. “The healing that I got to witness taking place during those three days changed my perspective on many things.”
In doing the approximate 500-kilometre eastbound trek along the Trans-Canada highway, Eugene hopes that residential school survivors may see Eugene’s effort as a small form of justice. “Our ancestors will finally be able to come to peace in the homeland that they were stolen from. These lost innocent children’s souls discovered and undiscovered may finally start their journey to the sky world and be released back to the creator and those waiting for them up above.” To Eugene, it is the least she can do. “They are why am I here and proud to be Indigenous today.”
Eugene’s extended effort comes as other indigenous people do their own version of a medicine walk. On Aug. 9, a six-week, 2,000-kilometre walk led by Jamie Henyu (member of the Tahltan Nation) to honour children and survivors of residential schools ended in Kamloops. Henyu began his walk in the Yukon.
Shayna Taypotat is currently walking over 1,555 kilometres from Saskatchewan to Kamloops. Taypotat’s “A Walk To Healing For All” journey began midway through July on the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, about 165 kilometres east of Regina. She’s walking eight hours a day for 45-50 straight days until she reaches Kamloops as part of her healing journey.
Eugene plans to walk eight hours per day with one two-hour break. “At this rate, I anticipate it will take me 8-14 days to arrive back at the Shuswap Nation administration building.”
Like last time, Eugene has extended an open invite to anyone from any nation to join her. Like last time, Eugene’s fiancé, Tegan Oja, and her grandmother Audrey will follow along in support vehicles. Eugene will be updating social media daily when there is cell service. Like last time, a feast and get-together will await her at the Shuswap admin building.
And like last time, she will be wearing for the entirety of the walk traditional clothing (moccasins!). “But this time around, I’ll be better prepared for blisters,” she said laughing.
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer