Halifax — There were many lonely moments for Patrick Etherington Jr., 28, as he walked the 2,200 kilometers from Cochrane, Ont., to Halifax. Etherington, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, made the trip with his father, Patrick Sr., and a group of five companions made up of residential school survivors and their children.
Many times along the route, Etherington felt his legs become leaden as cars zipped past. He found himself wondering what passersby must be thinking about “these crazy Indians walking by the side of the road.” What kept him going was the conviction that he was walking for something “bigger than myself.
“There is a big problem of suicide in my community,” Etherington said. “I walked for my buddies [who committed suicide] and for those who have attempted it.”
The trip made him see, for the first time, the beauty of the land of his ancestors and the honour of the people walking with him. “It was a humbling experience.”
Etherington’s father, Patrick Etherington Sr., organized this walk. He said it was important to have the youth participate to raise awareness about the “survivors of the survivors”—the children and grandchildren of survivors who were raised by traumatized parents. “This can’t go any further,” he said. “The cycle has to end now.”
Last summer, the Etheringtons walked from Cochrane, Ont. to Winnipeg for the first TRC National Event, held Jun. 16-19, 2010. The trip took 31 days and covered 1,600 kilometers.