A group of around 30 walkers left Edmonton May 31 and spent the next 15 days travelling to Calgary to promote education and reflection on Canada’s treaties with Indigenous Peoples.
The group slept in churches, community halls and colleges along the way, stopping in at various communities to facilitate conversations with locals.
“I witnessed a lot of a-ha moments where people were moved in ways that they weren't expecting, through new relationships that were formed with people they wouldn't have normally maybe crossed paths with,” said Allegra Friesen Epp, a participant and organizer of the walk.
The initiative’s intention was to engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens about the myths, facts and obligations of treaties. According to Friesen Epp, the group wanted to spark reflection and dialogue from the people they encountered – looking to build relationships and explore future possibilities of how Albertans and Canadians view treaties.
Treaties are contracts that allowed settlers to live in North America. According to a Common Ground release, “Indigenous Nations have not enjoyed the same level of political, social and economic self-determination” from treaties created with settlers decades ago.
Many of the people the group spoke to throughout the journey said they didn’t grow up learning about Indigenous history, such as residential schools, Friesen Epp said, and the walk allowed them to broadly communicate their message.
“[We need to] recognize that we are all treaty people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who live in this land that some call Canada. We all have treaty rights and responsibilities,” she said. “Throughout the walk, [we] engaged different communities in conversation about what that means to be a treaty person.”
The walk stopped in a new community each day of the 15-day journey – including a stop in Crossfield where walkers were joined by students from Crossfield Elementary School June 13. The students gifted walkers drinks and participated in the journey through the town as the group set out on a trek to Airdrie, before reaching its final destination in Calgary. However, on the journey from Crossfield to Airdrie, a thunderstorm required the group to be shuttled into the city.
Friesen Epp said walkers received a warm welcome when they arrived at the Living Springs Christian Fellowship, where they spent the evening.
“We had a beautiful sharing circle with a number of folks. There were a few from that particular church that came, which was really nice,” she said.
Friesen Epp said added Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown joined the walk into the city and stayed for the discussion circle.