Armed only with his trusty running shoes, a positive outlook, a pink T-shirt that reads ‘Go be kind’ and a desire to connect with his ancestors, James Taylor is setting out on Sept. 20 to walk from Hope back home to Greater Victoria in just five days.
This type of marathon walk isn’t new for Taylor, a member of the Mississauga Ojibwe Nation and a “cultural history resource” for School District 61. Since 2014, he has travelled from Mile 0 to Ottawa on foot three times – five-month trips he refers to as “healing walks.” Each walk came as a response to calls from his ancestors asking him to honour survivors of trauma and “those who never came home.”
Taylor began embarking on long-distance walks in 2003 after being struck by lightning in Ontario. He said he’s been hit twice in his life and the second time transformed him. He remembers spending what felt like hours in a limited space with many of his ancestors before his grandfather came to him and told him to go back, use his gift and walk.
Lightning strike survivors are referred to as “heyoka” or “sacred clowns,” he explained, noting that since the incident, he’s been more jovial, which is why his Ojibwe name is Kind Lightning.
Taylor said walking across the country is “pretty hard, pretty incredible, pretty lonely [and] pretty happy.”
He’d planned to embark on his fourth and final cross-country walk in 2020, but the pandemic and an injury derailed his plans. He was disappointed, but in June, his wife pointed out that since February, he’d taken long healing walks every day and that between the local walks and the trip from Hope to Saanich, he will have walked 9,300 km – the equivalent to a walk to Ottawa and back.
He was able to see friends and family, sleep at home, save money on bandaids and use far fewer pairs of sneakers – he would have burned through about 14 pairs on a round-trip.
As with each of his healing walks, Taylor will make the journey from Hope to Saanich alone – relying on the kindness of others for meals and a place to sleep. To contribute, contact Taylor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and all extra funds will go into his GoFundMe page.
This walk is not only for missing and murdered Indigenous women and for residential school survivors but for all who need healing and closure. Taylor plans to make daily posts on his Facebook page, Walking for our lost relations. He welcomes anyone who wishes to join him but emphasized the need for mental preparation; “each step is a prayer,” which is why the walk draws attention to so many issues.
Taylor plans to be back into Saanich on Thursday (Sept. 24). Students from Claremont Secondary School will join him on the trek down to Cordova Bay for a sacred fire and a fast, to which all are welcome.
Taylor feels this will be his final long-distance healing walk but noted that his ancestors may call on him to continue and said he’ll be happy to oblige because when the ancestors come to speak, “you’ve just got to listen.”