Lil’watémclhkan Ts’ila ts7a: Naskan uxwal – “I’m going home - reclaiming our spirit”

“Naskan Uxwal” a “reclaiming our spirit” walk from the Kamloops Indian Residential School to upper St’at’imc territory at Tsal’alh was held from Sunday, March 24 to Wednesday, March 29 with breakfast on March 30.  

Lil’wat and N’Quatqua runners Kyle Peters and Kruize Peters both started the run at the Kamloops Indian Residential school. Along with participants and support from the communities, they continued the run/walk to lower St’at’imc through the highline road to N’Quatqua on March 30, and to Lil’wat on March 31.  

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The Náskan Uxwal (I’m Going Home) project was set up to acknowledge and to help heal St’at’imc Residential School survivors and their families. Naskan Uxwal means “I’m going home.”

The walk made stops in different St’at’imc communities along the way with ceremonies held before, during and after the walk.

According to a Naskan Uxwal communiqué, “survivors of the Kamloops residential school envisioned going back to KIRS to bring back the spirits that have been left behind.”

The walk was set up so that intergenerational families could experience a sense of “connection” and “healing” with their families that attended residential school, and to move forward from there.

The walk was also an “opportunity for people to learn about St’at’imc history and how residential school affected our lives.”

Lillooet citizens at a reconciliation workshop wrote messages for residential school survivors:  “I love you, we are here to welcome you home, we remember so this will never happen again, we learn from our past to build a better future, working together building bridges, proud of (your) healing journey, your strength and resilience is inspiring and gives me hope for the future.”

Ironically, the Naskan Uxwal walk coincides with the fallout of Conservative senator, Lynn Beyak’s ignorant speech earlier in March. CBC news quotes her as saying that “good deeds” accomplished by “well-intentioned” religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the (Residential School) Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Beyak claims that she has many Indigenous friends, and that she “was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in that it didn’t focus on the good.”  

She states that the (Native) people she talked to are “Christians.”

She implies that Indigenous success is related to them practicing Christianity.  She also used the word “fake news” to try to discredit news reports of the backlash that her remarks created.

To date, senator Beyak stands by her remarks.  She refuses to apologize to residential school survivors, which is disappointing coming from someone in her position. She states that she will not be resigning from her senate seat, or her position as the senate’s Aboriginal Peoples Committee.

One can only try to fathom how difficult it is for anyone from mainstream society to understand how a whole race of children were forced to leave their parents, family, culture, traditions and spirituality behind.

Multitudes of children were forced to go through culture shock learning the culture, language and religion of their oppressor, while at the same time being physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused by the very religious-run residential schools that were supposedly set up to protect them.

It’s good that more and more people from mainstream society are starting to understand the issues of internal colonialism, residential schools and how both have affected generations of Indigenous people. But, it seems that the amount of mainstream people that understand the issues is a drop in the bucket compared to all of the work that needs to be done within mainstream society itself to educate everyone about Indigenous issues.  

It’s good to see that residential school issues are now being included in school curriculum. But, all aspects of this country’s policies need to be over-hauled. For example, Indigenous people are a prominent part of this country.  Because of this, immigration laws need to include more in-depth requirements for learning about Indigenous issues within the immigration test itself.  

Indigenous people have been working on healing for decades. It may not seem like a fast process, but the road to recovery is happening. It is good to see projects like “Naskan Uxwal” happening.  Hands up to all of the participants from all St’at’imc and neighbouring communities for participating in, supporting the project, and for working on bringing our spirits home.

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