Kelowna-area trucker Mike Otto did not expect such a huge response when he put out feelers to organize a convoy to the site of the former Kamloops Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc to show solidarity for First Nations.
“The intent is to get the message out that these families need closure, their voices need to be heard and we are there to support them,” he told Black Press Media Wednesday afternoon, confirming convoys will depart from Williams Lake and Merritt as well as Kelowna. It will take place on Saturday, June 5.
After hearing about the 215 children’s bodies buried at the site, he decided wanted to do something.
He mulled it over all weekend and put a note on some Facebook pages to see if there was any interest.
Initially it was supposed to be only trucks, but it’s turned out to be more.
“It’s really massive now. I put it out on Monday and I did not expect it to take off like it has. It’s unbelievable. I’ve also heard from Alberta and Ontario.”’
A father himself, Otto said he felt complete and utter sadness when he heard about the burial site.
“I cannot imagine what families went through to have their children taken away with no choice. A few times it has brought tears to my eyes.”
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars said the convoy is a great idea.
“A very important part of the healing process is people coming together,” he said.
The convoys will depart from Kelowna at the Chevron Card-Lock at 8 a.m., in Merritt at 9:30 a.m. from the Esso and Denny’s Restaurant and from the 150 Mile House Gas Station at 7:30 a.m.
They will converge at the site at 11:30 a.m.
Accompanying Otto on Saturday will be a friend whose family members attended the Kamloops residential school.
“We’ve been in contact with Kamloops Indian Band and I just got off the phone with someone who will be directing traffic to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.
When the convoy arrives there will be a drum circle at the site and some First Nations elders in attendance, he added.
There is either going to be a drive-thru or some people parking in the pow wow circle, it hasn’t been fully confirmed.
“I know the city of Kamloops is never going to believe this for sure,” he added.
Anyone with questions can call or text Otto at 250-878-5093 or message him through his Facebook page.
“I hope something good comes out of this,” he added.