A woman from Edmonton hiking across Canada to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women recently marched through Revelstoke, B.C.
Originally, Xena Szkotak was planning to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, but the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“My friend joked I should walk to Newfoundland instead,” said Szkotak, 24.
But the seed was planted and she left Victoria, B.C. on Feb. 24 aiming for St. John’s Newfoundland by the end of the year. She walked through Revelstoke on March 19. Her entire journey is approximately 8,000 km on the Trans-Canada Highway.
While the majority of the walk is funded through personal savings, Szkotak said she wants to take the opportunity to raise money for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) through a gofundme.
The number of missing and murdered Indigenous woman in Canada is disproportionately high. According to the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims and 11 per cent of missing women, even though Indigenous people account for just 4.3 per cent of Canada’s population.
As an Indigenous woman, Szkotak said it’s important Canadians understand the extent of the crisis.
“There are humans our society is neglecting,” she said.
Not only is the walk to raise awareness, but Szkotak said it’s an opportunity to get to know herself. Previously, Szkotak had spent little time alone. Every longer hike she did was with someone else.
“I’ve realized I can depend on myself,” she said.
“I’ve become my own friend.”
Each day is spent waking up at 5 a.m., walking 40 km and when it gets dark, camping beside the road.
“My life is very simple.”
Since Szkotak has spent several weeks on Highway 1, she said semi trucks have began to recognize her on their frequent trips along the road. Some trucks honk, wave and even pull over to ask why she is walking.
“My only community the past while have been semi trucks.”
So far, Szkotak has walked through intense rain and snow. One night on Vancouver Island, she camped too close to the road and a passing vehicle splashed wet snow onto her tent, collapsing it and she had to dig herself out.
“It was a different kind of morning alarm than I was expecting,” she said.
Szkotak said she is really looking forward to the big sky of the prairies and warmer weather.
Due to large snow levels on Roger’s Pass, Szkotak got a ride to the other side of Golden, where the highway shoulder is wider and not rimmed with giant walls of snow.
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