James Taylor was relieved to finally kick off his trusty sneakers and bury his sore feet in the sand after five days of walking from Hope to Saanich.
On Sept. 20, Taylor, a member of the Mississauga Ojibwe Nation and two-time lightning strike survivor, set out to walk from Hope back home to Greater Victoria. This was his 11th long-distance healing walk in the last 17 years. Since 2014, he has walked from Mile 0 to Ottawa on foot three times – each time his ancestors called on him to walk to honour survivors of trauma and “those who never came home.”
Instead of Ottawa, this year Taylor walked from Hope to Saanich as the distance added to his daily walks since February is equivalent to a round trip between Saanich and Ottawa – about 9,300 km.
This year’s walk was “amazing,” Taylor said. He posted daily updates to his Facebook page to keep friends and family in the loop. The trip from Hope to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal only took four days as he walked more than 40 km daily – all the while relying on the kindness of new and old friends alike for a warm meal and a place to rest.
He said the journey wasn’t quite the same as a true walk across the country as he wasn’t visiting the same people and places, but this journey brought about “so many beautiful moments.” Taylor recounted being joined by an eagle who kept tabs on him, a black bear going about its business and a mother orca and her calf frolicking in the ocean near his ferry back to Swartz Bay on Wednesday.
“It felt like something special [that] I can’t even understand,” he said.
Taylor undertook the final leg of the journey – Swartz Bay to Cordova Bay – early on Sept. 24 and made his way along the Pat Bay Highway accompanied by Qwiahwultuhw, a local elder. The pair set out early and just before 1 p.m., they made their way past Claremont Secondary School where some 15 students and several teachers waited to join them on the trek down to the beach. The group wove up Cordova Bay Road and through McMorran Park while Taylor – dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt bearing the names of missing Indigenous youth – drummed and sang.
On the beach, Taylor removed his shoes and winced as his feet sank into the sand. He thanked the students for joining him as their energy had motivated him to finish the walk. He said this was the most welcoming homecoming so far.
This walk was to honour survivors, acknowledge those who never made it home and celebrate the reclamation of Indigenous cultures, Taylor told the students, adding that positive change is in the hands of young people and that reconciliation takes place at the personal level.
He’s fairly certain this was his last long-distance healing walk.
“These guys are tired,” Taylor said gesturing to his feet. He plans to get back to hosting cultural sensitivity training events and healing workshops. Those interested can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.