By James Rose
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Sasha Eugene, 26, arrived home in the early evening at about 6 p.m. Monday, Aug 30. She walked from Kamloops. She began her medicine walk on August 20 as the sun rose to start the day. She walked along the Trans-Canada an average of 45 kilometres per day and turned south on Highway 93/95 at Golden. She only wore traditional Shuswap clothing. Her shoes were moccasins made from deerskin.

Before crossing over to the eastern slope of the Purcells, she used cedar bough to treat blisters. “I wasn’t aware of [cedar bough] as a medicine until I did this walk. People from all different Indigenous nations came to visit me along the way and teach me things about their culture.” In absence of cedar on the eastern slope of the Purcells, Eugene was instructed to use the leaves from plantain weed. Eugene learned about ancient indigenous medicinal knowledge. One visitor told Eugene about the medicinal properties of pitch to use to treat closed blisters or open wounds.

It’s an incredibly scenic stretch of highway. The only part of the walk Eugene used a vehicle was through the Rogers Pass tunnels for safety concerns.

“I had a greater deal of support compared to last time when I walked from St. Eugene to Invermere [June 2021]. It was amazing to give people the chance to let them show their kindness. The whole way, there was an outpouring of support.” In June, Eugene walked from the former St. Eugene Indian Residential School to Invermere. 

“These children, our elders, our survivors, they have waited too long,” she said in June. “These elders are having to go through all of this all over again. They thought they got over it. They deserve to see their youth out there being who they are. Elders have told me there’s no right or wrong way to do this. Support will come once I start walking. They deserve so much more than this.”

Her fiancé Tegan rode in a car alongside and at times joined her walking. Her grandmother Audrey was also there for support. Just like last time. Eugene’s great-grandmother Marge, 80, a residential school survivor, started with her great-granddaughter and then finished with her on the final stretch from Highway 93 down to the clubhouse at Setetkwa Golf Course. “The cabin on hole number two is where my grandfather’s grandfather used to live, a hereditary chief.”

A feast was then enjoyed by all those in attendance. It was a public event.

Eugene gained a new perspective while walking. “The biggest thing that clicked for me was the very first creation story was the same for all different nations. Water, earth, animals, nature, rivers came first and our job as humans was and is to take care of everything that came before us.”

Eugene believes we as humans must start giving back to the world. “The most important thing is bigger is not always better,” she said. “Greed is the root of division. We need to learn to listen to those less fortunate.” Eugene bore witness to lots of trash along the highway as she walked. It disgusted and disappointed her. “There were full toilets, microwaves, all kinds of trash in those ditches are where our drinking water flows through.”

Eugene said she felt good but tired the day after she arrived. Her muscles weren’t too sore. But she’s taking a couple of days off before she goes back to work at Homemade Perfect, a cleaning company. Eugene is concurrently studying for a bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Business from Athabasca University. She enjoys spending time with her six-year-old son Jaxx by spending time near rivers or lakes fishing for trout. “I love going to Whiteswan because it’s so beautiful up there and there is no cell service and It’s easier to detach. I like being in the moment.” She likes to hang out on shore, but she hopes to soon buy a boat she’s been saving up for.

To see more photos and read Eugene’s firsthand account of her experience, visit her Facebook page @medicinefreedomwalkkamloops.