On the last leg of his 216-kilometre run completed over three weeks, Langford resident and Da’naxda’xw First Nation member Kasalas Sasha Perron was greeted by several hundred people at the BC Legislature on July 1.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous attendees gathered following a memorial march for Perron’s last kilometre from Fisherman’s Wharf. Perron ran one kilometre for each of the 215 children whose unmarked graves were discovered next to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and another for those who at the time had yet to be discovered.
“The reason I wanted to run was to use my gifts to help support my family; to help support the survivors (of the residential school system); to help carry some grief,” Perron told the crowd gathered on the legislature’s front lawn.
Feeling the extent of his own grief for those who died in the residential school system proved the most difficult experience while running, he said. “But it reminded myself why I was doing it – for my family.”
The fundraiser happening in conjunction with Perron’s run had generated $12,968 as of July 1, all of which will be donated Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
Perron’s family includes his uncle and life-long traditional Indigenous artist Kevin Cranmer, who spoke to the crowd from the legislature steps.
“There was a period between 1884 and 1951 when our traditional way of life was against the law,” Cranmer said. Without the foresight of First Nations elders to continue them secretly, traditions such as the afternoon’s drumming and dancing marking Perron’s efforts would have been lost, he said.
“This is a day for celebration, which is why we sing our song, speak of our connections to our territories and speak of the old people’s love for that way of life,” he continued.
With a level voice, Cranmer submitted to the audience something to consider of the residential school system in Canada, for which his nephew had just run a cumulative five marathons to reconcile.
“Before contact, there was warfare fought between our tribes,” Cranmer said. “In those days, it was the men – the warriors – that would go down to the beach to deal with the unpleasantness. It wasn’t the women, it wasn’t the children. It needs to be said: when this country declared war on our people, they went after our children.”
“The people who work in these buildings here and in Ottawa, they gave it their best shot. But lo and behold, we are still here,” Cranmer said.
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