Long Lake Seeking Healing Ride traveled roughly 40km from Kehewin to St. Paul on Wednesday. The horseback ride aimed to help bring unity and understanding after Truth & Reconciliation.
In the heat conditions, eight horseback riders and another twelve began the journey with a water blessing at Long Lake. Then they started on their ride to help create awareness for individuals to learn from the past and heal from the trauma from within.
In March, Councillor for Kehewin Cree Nation and Chairperson of the event, Ben Badger screened a documentary in St. Paul that served as his inspiration for the healing ride.
Dakota 38 details Jim Miller’s dream in 2005 where he rode on horseback from his home in South Dakota to Minnesota, the site where 38 on his ancestors where hanged in 1862. A few years after his dream, Miller and a group of riders visited the hanging site on that anniversary of the largest execution in U.S. history. Miller attended the event yesterday as an honoured guest.
“One of the things that we wanted to do was tell different stories,” said Ben Badger addressing the one hundred or so gathered at the Bethel Family Worship Centre. “This is the first time I have been welcomed in this town.”
“I want to hand this down to my kids. I want them to remember this so we can change the story of St. Paul.”
The stop at a church was important considering the first exposure many First Nations people would’ve had many years ago. The church, along with Mayor of St. Paul, Maureen Miller, and MLA for Two Hills-St. Paul- Lac La Biche, David Hanson welcomed the riders and held hands in prayer: in English, French, Ukrainian, and Cree.
“It’s gonna create conversations at kitchen tables. ‘What was that? What were they doing?’ And it’s going to take us, who are here, to educate again and again, so it’s an opportunity for conversation. And you can’t have enough of them,” said St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller.
After a rest at the church, the riders rode through main street St. Paul on their Way of Forgiveness, en route to Blue Quills First Nation for a ceremony, feast, and giveaway.
“For me, this more about unity, and erasing the divisions. Breaking down those barriers that stop us from coming together and just socializing,” said Tonya Fontaine, a member of the St. Paul Reconciliation Committee who organized the walk.
“People will look when we ride in, they’ll try to decide: is it for Indigenous people, is it for white people? And it’s like, no. This is for everybody.”
For Badger, this ride comes with a heavy heart, and the opportunity to heal. His brother was murdered a couple years ago in his home of Kehewin, and it has been one of the great struggles of forgiveness in his life.
“We rode past the house of the gentleman who took his life. If he came out of his house I would have shaken his hand.”
The ride is the first of four that take place each year. The next two will be along the same route. In the fourth year, organziers say they would like to ride to Battleford.