With a drum slung over his shoulder and a travel mug of coffee in hand, James Taylor, a member of the Curve Lake First Nation who lives in Saanich, began a healing walk to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls early on May 5.
Taylor set out down the Galloping Goose Regional Trail from the Tillicum neighbourhood at 7:30 a.m. He walked to View Royal where he stopped for the first song of the day after praying and smudging. He then continued on, stopping every few kilometres for a song – including the West Coast Strong Women song and the Anishinaabekwe Song. He planned to finish his walk in Cordova Bay at sunset with one last song next to the ocean after tracking at least 35 kilometres.
Throughout the day he went live on his Facebook page to share his journey and educate followers about Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Taylor is no stranger to marathon walks – he’s embarked on the months-long journey from Mile 0 to Ottawa on foot many times and in September 2020 he walked from Hope to Saanich. Each time, he walks for Indigenous healing, for those who’ve gone missing and for residential school survivors.
May 5 and Sept. 28 – Orange Shirt Day – are hard days for Taylor. These are days to “acknowledge the atrocities that happened to our First People here in what’s known as colonial Canada or what we call Turtle Island,” he told his followers in a live video, wearing a bright blue T-shirt from the Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society in Lantzville and featuring the figure of an Indigenous woman in a red dress.
“I’m walking for all our sisters, our mothers, our aunties – the ones who haven’t come home, the ones who never made it home, the ones who were taken from us,” Taylor said, adding that the issue is personal as both he and his wife have lost loved ones. “It’s sad that our women go missing and nothing gets done.”
To prepare for the walk, he took part in the 60×60 training challenge which asked those who planned to spend May 5 walking to get active for one hour a day for two months beforehand.
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