A slow-moving caravan departed from Enderby Thursday morning to raise awareness and call for justice for the 215-plus Indigenous children discovered buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Dozens of vehicles, a pilot truck, a few classic cars and an air-conditioned bus with signs that read ‘Say No to Genocide’ and ‘Every Child Matters’ left the Splatsin Community Centre on July 1 around 11 a.m.
The rolling blockade is making its way to Kamloops, cruising at 50 km/h.
Drums, singing and car horns were the soundtrack to organizer Jody Leon’s smudge ceremony on Highway 97A which had traffic stalled in both directions for several minutes.
Equipped with a ceremonial feather and a megaphone, the organizer called out the federal government and the church for their role in the residential school system and genocide of Indigenous culture.
Her speech was met with applause from people in vehicles, participating in the blockade and sitting in traffic.
A painted portrait of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald was unrolled.
”This is the man responsible, the ugly Sir John A. MacDonald,” she said. “Today we will go back to the residential school in strength for our babies, our children and our survivors because we love our people.
“So, we’re going to start this by smashing through John A.’s face and we’re going to go onto our unceded and unsurrendered lands. Thank you for standing in solidarity. With our ancestors, we stand for you.”
She drove through the portrait, splitting it in half, which was answered with more honking and cheers.
Traffic remained idle while nearly 70 or so vehicles rolled out heading toward Salmon Arm and then onto Kamloops with several stops planned throughout.
The caravan is set to have a ceremony upon its arrival at the former residential school.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering from trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The 24-7 hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.