After a journey that lasted 21 days, Brad “Caribou Legs” Firth arrived in Prince Rupert after running more than 700 kilometres to raise awareness about the Highway of Tears.
Firth, who is a member of the Gwich’in First Nation, began his journey in Prince George on Nov. 1. Firth burned sweetgrass as he ran to cleanse the highway and stopped in several communities along the way to speak to Indigenous youths. He said that his reception has been mixed, but for most part the response he has received for what he has tried to accomplish has been positive.
“A lot of people have been coming out and supporting us with gas money, supporting us with food and hugs and honks on the road,” he said. “In its inaugural run, I’m pleased and satisfied with the outcome.”
Firth arrived in Prince Rupert on Nov. 21 and met with approximately 17 young people aged 13-17 at the Prince Rupert Friendship House. He offered them encouragement, told them to support one another and to spend more time connecting with each other and learning about their history instead of playing video games.
“I want you to be routed in your culture,” he said. “If you spend too much of your time with your PlayStation or Xbox, prepare to be isolated.”
RCMP have reported that 18 girls or women have gone missing or been murdered along the highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert since 1969. Those in the Indigenous community say the number is closer to 50. Eric Klaptiuk, a coordinator at the Friendship House, said conversations like the one Firth had are important.
“It’s not one that happens and it should be happening more often especially in light of a lot of things that are happening not only in Canada but globally,” he said.