'I'm still processing': Indigenous man walks from Kelowna to Kamloops Residential School | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'I'm still processing': Indigenous man walks from Kelowna to Kamloops Residential School

Rob Mercer poses for a photo near the Enderby Cliffs on his way from Kamloops to the former residential school on Tk'emlups te Secwepemc land.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK
June 16, 2021 - 1:33 PM

Rob Mercer has walked over 200 kilometres of his journey from his home in Kelowna to the former Kamloops Residential School, and he expects to arrive this afternoon.

Since he started his walk on Friday, June 11, Mercer said it has been a grind, but it was the best way he could think of to process his grief.

When he read the news about the bodies of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Residential School, Mercer said he was heartbroken. After two weeks of processing, and searching for ways to write about how he has been struck with the news, the Tahltan-Cree man came to terms with the fact he couldn't process his feelings through words.

Mercer started a fundraiser on June 10 and laced up his shoes the next day to start his journey, which happens to be about 215 km.

"I'm still processing," he said, but he is nearly at the end of his walk and isn't sure what to expect when he arrives on the school grounds.

"The grief was eating me up. It was like a tipping point for me. It wasn't just the 215 kids, it was the whole system system and policies," Mercer said on a phone call with iNFOnews.ca.

Commercial trucks were speeding by and some vehicles were honking to show their appreciation while he walked on the shoulder of Highway 1 toward Tk'emlups.

"I have a mathematical background, so it's hard to put into words how I'm feeling now," Mercer said. "It's just me walking it out."

Along with his goals of processing the legacy of Canada's residential schools, and fundraising for the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, he wants to help raise awareness for the children who didn't make it home from the schools, the survivors who did, and the families facing intergenerational trauma.

His fundraiser has collected over $5,700 so far, and he encourages others to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society or directly to Tk'emlups te Secwepemc for their efforts in the community.

"When I first heard the news, I'd look at my own kids and think that a generation or two ago, I might not have had the chance to raise them," Mercer said.

So far, he has met new people along the way who joined him in his walk. He heard survivor stories when he stopped in Chase. Now, he is completing his journey with his mother, brother and a new friend from Chase.

He's not the only person raising awareness and funds either. Brock Fraser has been raising funds through his 215 km running campaign. The Adams Lake Indian Band recently held a community healing event by walking from the former school to Chase over a weekend.

"I think it's connected. If you're ever in a stressful situation you get up and pace or walk. I was told yesterday walking was good from a traditional viewpoint, it brings a connection to Mother Earth," he said. "There's been points where I've seen some fantastic views, and other times where I didn't look up for an hour — just one foot in front of the other. "

As he continues to the end of his journey, Mercer said he considers the findings near the former Kamloops Residential School to be a galvanizing event for public consciousness. It leaves him hopeful, but for now he's focusing on the end of his walk and arrival at the residential school grounds this afternoon, June 16.

"I have no idea what it's gonna be like. I've thought about it a lot over the journey," he said. "Your body hurts over 200 km, but you're not just gonna stop. You put it away in a compartment and don't open that box. Once i get there, I don't know what will happen."

Mercer's fundraiser can be found on Facebook here. Donations can be made directly to Tk'emlups te Secwepemc by email at donations@kib.ca.

Find past stories on the former Kamloops Residential Schoo here.

If you find yourself in need of support please contact one of these organizations:

Indian Residential School Survivors: 1-800-721-0066

KUU-US Indigenous crisis line - available 24 hours
Youth Line: 250-723-2040
Adult Line: 250-723-4050

Residential School Crisis line - available 24 hours: 1-866-925-4419

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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