By the time Landyn Toney lace up his shoes for the sixth and final day of his walk, the 12-year-old Mi’kmaw will have already walked 180 kilometers – pushing himself every step of the way with the reminder that his ancestors were forced to walk through their pain. .
Landyn left Bible Hill, Nova Scotia, a few miles from the Shubenacadie residential school where her great-grandmother grew up on Canada Day.
This year, Indigenous leaders and their allies called for mourning and reflection on the holiday, which followed the discovery of what appear to be over 1,000 unmarked graves in or near three former residential schools in British Columbia and in Saskatchewan last month – and to highlight the problem of systemic racism in this country.
But Landyn says he felt frustrated that his school did not do much to recognize the burial sites or the effect the residential school system has had on survivors and their families.
“I’m not the type of person who just wants to let go of my anger,” he said, speaking from the side of a freeway after five days of walking. “I wanted to show my anger by doing something right.”
His mother supported his passion. Marsha McClellan and her son created a route within days of her idea, one that would take them from their home to the Annapolis Valley First Nation, where Landyn was born. This course covers approximately 203 kilometers, which is equivalent to nearly five marathons.
Landyn and her mother are expected to arrive at Annapolis First Nation on Tuesday evening.
“I’m sore, I’m proud, my heart is heavy; a lot of different emotions are happening,” she said on Monday. “Maybe we will feel what some of these kids felt when they tried to get home after residential school – and we will feel this physical pain and this emotional pain and maybe we will have a better understanding.”
She said she thinks their journey has already started to resonate with people across Canada. Their Facebook page has gained over 8,700 followers and they’ve raised $ 15,000 so far.
“There have been so many hidden truths, there are so many Canadians who don’t know what really happened in residential schools or how many people it affected,” she said. “We want to change that.”
“Next time you come back …”
A committee will decide how the funds will be distributed among Indigenous causes, but Landyn says he wants to make sure some is spent to create more Mi’kmaw classes for the New Brunswick education program. Scotland.
He says he was inspired by the support he received along the way: survivors walked with him and people lined the road viaducts, dressed in orange, to cheer him on.
During an interview, he stopped to smile as a car honked behind him on the highway – only to be interrupted by a siren as an ambulance also showed solidarity. RCMP patrol cars have escorted him for the past five days along the highway.
WATCH | 12-year-old walking 200 kilometers for residential school survivors:
And his great aunt and great uncle joined him on Monday.
They pay tribute to their mother, Regina Toney, who survived residential school in Shubenacadie but passed away in 2011. She was also Landyn’s great-grandmother.
Eileen Lloyd not only remembers her mother’s stories about the school system, but also her own escape in 1952. It was then that an Indian agent came to her school in the Annapolis Valley, she says. , and his manager told him and his brothers to go out the back stairs, run to your house, and hide there.
The officer returned a month later, she said, but visited their home this time where her father was making baskets.
Her father said to the man, “‘You just came out of my reserve,’ without kind words,” she said. “And he took his knife and cut [the man’s] tie right away – and he said, ‘Next time you come back, it’ll be your throat.’ “
Her mother’s time at residential school and the fear of being taken continued to affect her and her brother’s family, Toney said. They did not speak the Mi’kmaw language.
This is why First Nations chiefs across Nova Scotia are advocating that people now claim their culture, Toney said.
And that’s also why it’s spiritual for him to see his grandnephew walk in honor of the survivors and those who died in schools, he said.
“It means a lot to me to see a kid come out this way and accept a trip like this,” Toney said. “It just sends a chill through my bones when I see him; he’s so dedicated.
“I am honored by him… he has my heart.”