Posted Oct. 2, 2021

By James Wastasecoot 

The Pimotwak walkers, who took on a thousand-kilometer trek from York Landing, Tataskwayak and Fox Lake, arrived at the Manitoba legislative grounds on Sept. 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. About two hundred individuals, many of them former students at Mackay Residential school, gathered on the grounds in bright sun to mark the holiday, and to remember the children of unmarked graves discovered at Kamloops and other locations during the spring and summer.

“This has been an emotional journey for all of us,” said Councillor Sophie Lockhart, principal organizer.  

“I want to thank the team that helped bring it all together and made it possible through the collective effort of our people and our communities. People really stepped up. Everyone from the planners, the walkers, the drivers, the donors, to the communities that supported us along the way were important to making this all happen.”

“We have an opportunity to begin to lay the framework for reconciliation by addressing the critical need for addictions treatment in northern Manitoba,” said Keewatin Tribal Council Executive Director, George Neepin. “We call on both federal and provincial government support for trauma, informed addictions treatment in northern Manitoba.”

Councillor George Beardy of York Factory First Nation said the walk was an important undertaking to bring more awareness about residential schools throughout Canada. “I’m proud to have walked with my community and to declare that we will remember those children who didn’t make it home and to work toward justice for them. If crimes were committed in their disappearance, then they should be investigated.”

The gathering drew survivors from the Mackay Indian Residential School to the event where many enjoyed a reunion with old school chums and acquaintances. Survivors from the Pimotewak group of communities, York Landing, Tataskwayak and Fox Lake Cree, attended Mackay School in Dauphin from late 1957 to 1988. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation web site states: “[Mackay] originally operated as an elementary school, but additional dormitories were built in the 1960s to take in high school students who attended local day schools in Dauphin. Elementary school children who lived in Dauphin also attended the school as day students. In 1969, the McKay school closed, but the federal government continued to operate the residences (Scrase Hall and Spence Hall) up until 1988.”