Landyn Toney's journey to raise awareness about residential schools didn't end when he got to the last stop on his more than 200-kilometre walk across Nova Scotia.
Since 12-year-old Landyn ran through a ribbon at Annapolis Valley First Nation three weeks ago with a crowd of orange-clad supporters behind him, his fundraising campaign has reached close to $50,000.
Landyn's mother, Marsha McClellan, said hundreds of people have offered suggestions on how to spend the money. She said it became overwhelming, so they created "voices surveys."
"We have money raised and we wanted it to go to the right spots to further awareness and education," McClellan said. "So when we came up with the surveys, it was more like we want to hear from everybody … to really get an idea of where [our society] is lacking as a whole."
The goal of the surveys is to collect stories and information, letting people make their voices heard in a safe and anonymous way.
McClellan said it is a way to give Landyn's campaign "focus and direction," and to make sure it is guided by diverse lived experiences.
She said people have come forward and told her about their experiences with the residential school system, or the Sixties Scoop, and then admitted they had never spoken about their painful memories before.
Voices of the youth
The surveys will take place over two months and be categorized into groups, including elders, off-reserve Indigenous people, non-Indigenous people and incarcerated Indigenous people. At the end, the responses will be used to determine where fundraising dollars should go.
It began this week with on-reserve youth.
On Thursday at Glooscap First Nation near Hantsport, N.S., Landyn and his mother hosted a barbecue and shared their survey with young people in the community.
Children as young as six answered questions about things like cultural events in their community, mental health supports, and chances to learn from elders.
When asked how the $50,000 could be used, Cashis McNutt, 11, said he wants to see more cultural events in his community, like a drum-making course and a craft course.
Glooscap First Nation Chief Sidney Peters attended the barbecue. He said he looks up to Landyn.
"One of the things that Landyn has done through his walk … has brought a lot of First Nations together. And not only First Nations, but the non-natives as well," said Peters. "And I think that was important, and that was something that we really needed as a nation."
More events ahead
Landyn said he is tired and the campaign is busy, but he and his mother have plans for more fundraising events this summer, like a golf tournament in August.
McClellan said Landyn's Journey of Awareness is here to stay.
"Each year on Canada Day, we plan on doing a walk to different reserves," she said. "So next year we're going to do almost 400 kilometres to Cape Breton."
Landyn and his mother both hope to create permanent change. They have already been asked to speak at events, sit on boards, and create educational programming.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by these reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Do you know of a child who never came home from residential school? Or someone who worked at one? We would like to hear from you. Email our Indigenous-led team investigating the impacts of residential schools at email@example.com or call toll-free: 1-833-824-0800.
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