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Nation stands in front of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School. Submitted photo

Spirit Children’s Walk trio back home after completing journey to former Shingwauk residential school

After traveling more than 1,000 kilometres, the three participants of the Spirit Children’s Walk 2021 arrived at the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie on September 29 in time for ceremonies to mark the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The trio, who left a memorial in Vankleek Hill on September 8, walked a total of 420 kilometres, reaching Chalk River on foot, before accepting a ride for the final 640 kilometres. Their full story was documented in the Wednesday, September 13, edition of The Review.

While at the site, Al Harrington, his 13-year-old son Nation, and Jessica-Lee Dinovitzer met with officials from Algoma University, which now runs the school as the Shingwauk Residential School Centre. Officials with Algoma awarded Nation a scholarship to the university in honor of the young man’s journey, should he decide to continue his education after high school.

The visit to Shingwauk was an emotional one for Harrington, a survivor of what is known as the 60s Scoop – a period in which a series of policies were established in Canada that allowed child welfare authorities to take Indigenous children from their families for placement in foster homes, from which they would be adopted by white families. Nation’s great grandfather and great uncle escaped from Shingwauk and everyone in the family has heard the story of their experiences at the school and during their long journey home.

“As soon as we got out of the car, a rush of emotion just hit us,” Harrington said. “Just the intimidation of the school.”

“When we turned up the driveway, I couldn’t believe how big the school was. It took a while for us to get our emotions in check.”

After visiting the site and meeting with Algoma officials, the group immediately headed back to Ottawa, where they participated in the ceremonies held on Parliament Hill and at Confederation Park the next day (September 30) to mark the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Upon their arrival back in Kahnesatake, the trio were honored by their tribal council, at a ceremony where Nation was also presented with a plaque in recognition of his determination and for sharing truth and awareness of the tragedy of Canada’s Indigenous residential schools.

Donations can still be made to the Spirit Children’s Walk 2021 through their Facebook page and through a GoFundMe page they have set up. Donations can also be made via email transfer to [email protected].

With the trip over, Harrington said he, Nation and Dinovitzer are encouraging others to get involved in spreading the word of the need for schools to provide education on Canada’s Indigenous people.

“Write to your local MPs, write to the government,” Harrington said. “Tell them that we need more Indigenous awareness, more Indigenous culture in our school systems.”

Nation was presented with a plaque in honor of the trio’s journey at a special ceremony after the group’s return to Kahnesatake. Submitted photo

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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