A Wolseley resident is riding his bicycle from Winnipeg to visit all eight former Indian Residential School sites where unmarked graves have been found.
On the phone just outside Salmon Arm, B.C., Liam Haime said the ride has been "heartbreaking" at times, like when he visited the Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.
"You walk out to this field and there's 751 little flags in the ground. That one just kind of told the magnitude of how many little kids were lost."
Haime, 25, who is Métis and in the final year for his Education degree at the University of Manitoba, said the purpose of his ride is to raise awareness, especially among teachers, about the need for better Indigenous education, and to raise funds in support of Indigenous causes Idle No More, Take Action Stop Line 3 and No More Stolen Sisters. He said the causes support protecting people, protecting sacred land and educating people.
After leaving from Winnipeg on September 7 he had visited four former school sites in three weeks and planned to spend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at the Kamloops Residential School site. His last visit will be to the Sacred Heart Mission School in Northwest Territories, after which he wants to beat the snow home in November.
He says the journey has connected him with the living legacy of residential schools.
"Everyone I've talked to in these communities is either a survivor, or a son or a daughter or grandchild of a survivor. It's really sad just the scope of how many people it touched."
When he arrived at the Muscowequan Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan a man drove up to him and shared experiences of attending the school. The man told a story of being taken from his grandfather's house to attend the school, and then, after graduating Grade 8, being taken again as part of the Sixties Scoop.
"He was stolen from his home to go to school, and then stolen from his home to go live with a white family," said Haime.
"What really stood out was really his ability to forgive and be appreciative. It really put a good perspective on my life."
A woman pulled over in Saskatchewan and spoke to him for an hour. Her mother and father both attended residential schools, and she cried as she expressed her gratitude to Haime for doing the ride.
"Just to see something as small as someone on a bike wearing an orange shirt putting in some effort was something that she said to her felt very healing."
At each school site he visits Haime makes an offering of sage that was grown in Winnipeg.
"To the children...I lay it on the ground. I give that as an offering to them."
To the Indigenous children he has met as part of his teaching practicum, he wants to help them be proud to be Indigenous.
To donate to Liam Haime's ride search for Ride for Reconciliation on GoFundMe.com.
Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf