PHOTOS: Enderby caravan heads to Kamloops in honour of 215 Indigenous children

Organizer Jody Leon raises her fist ahead of the rollout of a slow-moving caravan from the Splatsin Community Centre to the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School on July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)Organizer Jody Leon raises her fist ahead of the rollout of a slow-moving caravan from the Splatsin Community Centre to the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School on July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Led by a pilot truck, dozens of vehicles with messages of solidarity and calls for justice rolled along Highway 97A July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Led by a pilot truck, dozens of vehicles with messages of solidarity and calls for justice rolled along Highway 97A July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)Led by a pilot truck, dozens of vehicles with messages of solidarity and calls for justice rolled along Highway 97A July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star) Led by a pilot truck, dozens of vehicles with messages of solidarity and calls for justice rolled along Highway 97A July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
The caravan organizer drove through a painting of Sir John A MacDonald on July 1, 2021, ahead of a convoy from the Splatsin Community Center to the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in honour of the 215-plus Indigenous children found buried there. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)The caravan organizer drove through a painting of Sir John A MacDonald on July 1, 2021, ahead of a convoy from the Splatsin Community Center to the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in honour of the 215-plus Indigenous children found buried there. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)(Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Organizer Jody Leon raises her fist ahead of the rollout of a slow-moving caravan from the Splatsin Community Centre to the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School on July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)Organizer Jody Leon raises her fist ahead of the rollout of a slow-moving caravan from the Splatsin Community Centre to the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School on July 1, 2021. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

A slow-moving caravan departed from Enderby Thursday morning to raise awareness and call for justice for the 215-plus Indigenous children discovered buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Dozens of vehicles, a pilot truck, a few classic cars and an air-conditioned bus with signs that read ‘Say No to Genocide’ and ‘Every Child Matters’ left the Splatsin Community Centre on July 1 around 11 a.m.

The rolling blockade made its way to Kamloops, cruising at 50 km/h. The Ministry of Transportation was aware of the event and had discussed details with the organizer and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation to ensure people’s safety.

Drums, singing and car horns were the soundtrack to organizer Jody Leon’s smudge ceremony on Highway 97A which had traffic stalled in both directions for several minutes.

Equipped with a ceremonial feather and a megaphone, the organizer called out the federal government and the church for their role in the residential school system and genocide of Indigenous culture.

Her speech was met with applause from people in vehicles, participating in the blockade and sitting in traffic.

A painted portrait of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald was unrolled.

“This is the man responsible, the ugly Sir John A. MacDonald,” she said. “Today we will go back to the residential school in strength for our babies, our children and our survivors because we love our people.

“So, we’re going to start this by smashing through John A.’s face and we’re going to go onto our unceded and unsurrendered lands. Thank you for standing in solidarity. With our ancestors, we stand for you.”

She drove through the portrait, splitting it in half, which was answered with more honking and cheers.

Traffic remained idle while nearly 70 or so vehicles rolled out heading toward Salmon Arm and then onto Kamloops with several stops planned throughout.

Leon said the journey, however, was not without its hurdles. She said the rolling blockade was met with questions from RCMP en route to Salmon Arm and the pilot trucks were pulled from duty.

“The ministry took steps to ensure the safety of participants and the travelling public, which included having traffic control vehicles nearby to respond as needed but not to actively pilot the caravan,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement to the Morning Star.

“We understand and respect the need for people to come together to reflect on the violence inflicted by the Canadian residential school system.”

DriveBC was updated to advise motorists of potential delays along Highway 97A, 97B and the Trans-Canada Highway 1.

Leon said she was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support the movement received by those who witnessed it on the convoy’s many stops to Kamloops.

“Only one vehicle threw stuff at my car,” she recalled.

“It was really empowering,” Leon said of the rolling blockade. “When we were pulled over, people on the highway were all honking — they were cool about it.”

The caravan held a ceremony upon its arrival at the former residential school.

“Pulling into there was pretty powerful,” she said, noting T-shirts were handed out and the Chief was present to provide words.

“So many young people were empowered by it,” Leon said.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering from trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The 24-7 hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

READ MORE: Supporters in Salmon Arm can greet a slow caravan along Highway 1 on July 1

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