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Riding, running toward truth and reconciliation

A memorial journey through Westman
05 - SV 9149
In June 2021 Sioux Valley Dakota Unity Riders travel through the Assiniboine Valley and their community to the Petro Canada service station on Highway One to commemorate the findings of children buried at Kamloops, BC Residential School. They later travelled to the residential school site at Brandon's Grand Valley.

Throughout six days, Sept. 25 – Sept. 30, four Indigenous communities will trek from Waywayseecappo Dakota Nation to Brandon on Every Child Matters Ride 2022. Birdtail Sioux, Canupawakpa, and Sioux Valley Dakota Nations plan to take part.

Ceremonies will take place at four school cemetery sites to honour the Indigenous children buried there.

Travis Mazawasicuna, of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is an organizer of the ride that will mean about 235 kilometres for some who go the entire distance.

“We did it before, because we had a prescription drug ride about eight years ago. I knew I could rely on the people from the four communities. I think it’s going to be good.”

He says there’s growing support for this effort and hopes non-Indigenous people will join in. “We have had people from Saskatchewan calling… we will probably have a trailer load of horses from there, and people who want to participate by walking.”

Mazawasicuna has encouraged people to walk along for a mile. Some told him they want to cycle as well, and even run. “A group of them… they’ll be relay running all the way. They volunteered. I said, ‘By all means.’”

Sunday, Sept. 25 the Ride begins with a ceremony at 12 noon at Waywayseecappo, northwest of Birtle, and will arrive at the Birtle Residential School site late day Sunday.

Monday at the Birtle school site there will be “a ceremony where we honour the children who never came home (feeding the children’s souls).” This includes prayers for survivors. “They went through a lot.”

Survivors will have an opportunity to speak at the ceremonies on this Ride. All ceremonies are held at noon. “That’s when we say the spirits are so high because the sun is straight up.”

Then the Ride will travel to Birdtail Sioux Dakota Nation, north of Miniota.

Tuesday, the caravan heads from Birdtail to the outskirts of Elkhorn, “running, riding and by bike – it’s a distance.”

For the sake of safety, there are places where horses won’t be ridden, such as on Hwy 83 through the steep Assiniboine Valley south of Miniota.

Wednesday, before the ceremony starts, they will walk through the town of Elkhorn. “I’m hoping some non-Indigenous people will walk with us to the cemetery site,” says Mazawasicuna. There, another ceremony of prayer and food offerings for the children who didn’t come home.

Late Wednesday, riders will arrive in Sioux Valley where Mazawasicuna says some 28 school children are buried.

Thursday the community, including school children, will gather for the ceremony on Sept. 29.

About 1 p.m. the Every Child Matters Ride sets off for Grand Valley Park beside the Trans-Canada Highway where riders and horses will lodge for the night.

Friday, the final day of the Ride begins early on Sept. 30 to the Brandon Residential School grounds on a Grand Valley hill near Brandon Research Station.

Sept. 30, on the Canada-wide holiday known as Truth and Reconciliation Day, a throng of people are expected to join the journey up a gravel road to the site where a final ceremony, prayers and addresses will conclude the Dakota Nations’ Ride.

“We’re hoping that the non-Indigenous people will join in with us together… to help solve the issues that were forced upon us,” says Travis Mazawasicuna.

He adds, “Please slow down if you see us. Step by step, it’s a healing journey.”

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