Houston’s Chamber of Commerce was happy to welcome Brett Merchant, 56 year-old east Kootney resident, and his companion Kura, a 10 year-old Siberian husky-wolf cross last week. Their stop in Houston marked their thirtieth day of walking along Hwy. 16 to raise awareness and $50,000 for the young women that were murdered and missing along the Highway of Tears.
Merchant’s and Kura’s 1236km walk began at the B.C. and Alberta border sign on Sept. 1, 2016. The pair’s goal is to arrive at their destination, Old Masset on Haida Gwaii, by Dec. 31, 2016.
Despite the health conditions Merchant faces—SLE lupus, early onset dementia, and diabetes— he says the that most challenging aspect of this journey has been the division.
“[It’s] the only thing that is a problem in the whole world. We’re exactly the same. And all the pain, hate, and problems [are] only caused by division,” said Merchant.
When asked what the most rewarding aspect about this trip has been, Merchant replied meeting the people.
“The people that are in the most pain around here, that have lost family members, are the ones that are the most welcoming too,” said Merchant.
A couple nights ago as Merchant and Kura were walking along the highway in the dark, there was a line of people waiting to welcome them.
“I’ll tell you what, Highway of Tears, it broke me right down. I would actually like to see this whole Highway of Tears corridor name to never change, but the meaning to change. Instead of the pain, Highway of Tears of joy because of forgiveness,” commented Merchant.
Merchant said that the initial purpose of this walk was to raise awareness, but as he meets people it has developed into a collective discussion about the multifaceted forms and definitions of a shelter. From a safe building, to safe transportation, to access to verbal support and assistance, the intent is to provide a space for young women to receive help and safety.
To make a donation, or to follow Merchant’s and Kura’s journey, visit www.gofundme. com/highwayoftears or www. facebook.com/walkforhighwayoftears