June 23. The day Shayna Taypotat began a journey of healing.
Twenty-nine-year-old Shayna is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, about 160 kilometres east of Regina, Sask.
When she heard about the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops residential school, “it shattered my entire world,” she said Aug. 18 in Salmon Arm, her voice unsteady with emotion. “Because these are Indigenous people… I have a daughter here and I couldn’t imagine. I can’t. I was the first generation not to attend.”
After she recovered from the initial shock of so many children being found at one school – a number she believes will never be a true picture, according to accounts from people who attended about how some children died – she was inspired to do a healing walk.
On June 23 she began ‘A Walk to Healing for All’ from Kahkewistahaw First Nation to Kamloops residential school.
Going through Sicamous and Salmon Arm on Aug. 17 to 19, she spoke about her wish to bring people together and to bring awareness to residential schools. Her older brother Greg joined her along the way and her daughter Gracie walks with her some days.
She and Greg joke with each other during the interview; they agree humour is essential to their lives.
Greg went to residential school, as did his father.
“As a child growing up, my old people they didn’t talk about this,” he said, pointing out that “nothing brought out things till the 215.”
“My own father, I don’t remember him telling me ‘I love you.’ That goes back to how they (residential schools) wanted to kill the Indian in the child. That’s where that goes back to. So I didn’t get that love, that hug.”
Greg, who excelled as an athlete growing up, said the walk has helped him to understand his father better, how he was a strong, healing man.
Greg and Shayna say the walk has brought them and their family closer together. Other family members will meet them in Kamloops.
“My family being together brings me lots of healing. That’s what we all need, being together,” Shayna remarked.
She emphasizes the impact of finding the remains of 215 children in Kamloops.
“215 was a wake-up call for me – for everyone.”
As she walks, Shayna said she prays for all the children.
“Every child matters. Every child in the world. Every individual. We were all children at one point. So I’ve been praying for everyone. Even the future generations to come in the world. Everyone. Everything I’ve been praying for. The Earth, the water, the plants, everything in the world.”
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