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‘We are on a mission’: Indigenous women walking to Kamloops in honour of residential school victims

The duo, along with their pilot vehicle, passed through Revelstoke Aug. 4

When Iva Geddes-McNabb heard about the 215 graves found at the residential school in Kamloops she sat down and cried.

It was on her mind for days, as a day school survivor herself, she felt a call to action and so the 73-year-old decided to walk.

She and her walking partner Carlene Hotomoni joined Shayna Lee Taypotat on her walk from Regina to Kamloops. Hotomoni started in Regina, and Geddes-McNabb joined them just outside of Medicine Hat.

Since then the trio has split up with Geddes-McNabb and Hotomoni moving at a faster pace.

“We hardly stop for anything,” Geddes-McNabb said. “Eat, sleep, walk.”

Iva Geddes-McNab and Carlene Hotomoni are walking to Kamloops with Heather Geddes following along in a vehicle. (Photo via Facebook)

The two take turns walking, each for an hour at a time, taking breaks in the follow car, which is driven by Geddes-McNabb’s daughter Heather. They usually cover 40-50 kilometres a day, with their longest day so far being 62 km, from Strathmore to Calgary.

Geddes-McNabb is from the George Gordon First Nation, north of Regina. Her parents went to residential school, and she herself went to day school.

Her parents were abused, the more they cried the more they were beaten, Geddes-McNabb said. They were told that their parents didn’t want them and were not allowed to speak their mother tongue.

Geddes-McNabb was forced to change clothes upon arriving at school every day, often into shoes that were too small. She said she was forced to go to church every day where she was told she was a sinner.

Though she has now been sober 26 years, those hurts led to alcoholism at an early age, Geddes-McNabb said.

With her left hip replaced twice, sometimes Geddes-McNabb thinks about quitting. But at the time she spoke with the Revelstoke Review she was only 100 kilometres away from Kamloops.

“We are on a mission,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. approves search funds for 18 residential schools, 3 hospitals

A part of it is education. She said she has talked to many people who don’t know about the history of residential schools and she hopes that sharing the truth with one person will have a ripple effect.

“That’s a way of healing,” she said.

She added that she believes if we don’t talk about our hurts we will always blame instead of heal.

It has been an emotional and spiritual journey for Geddes-McNabb.

After her husband died in 2014, she started getting fit: walking, kickboxing, setting up a home gym.

“It’s like I was preparing for this (walk),” she said.

The duo walked through Revelstoke on Aug. 4.

At the moment, Shayna Taypotat is in Canmore after some vehicle problems. The Revelstoke Review will reach out to her when she gets to town.

READ MORE: Revelstoke gathers to honour and remember residential school victims

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