Matthew Jefferson walked 8,275 kilometres with a 25-kilogram bag on his back.
The 33-year-old man from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia reached the easternmost point in Canada on June 25, but his journey to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is not over yet.
“I got that feeling as soon at the exact moment I reached Cape Spear,” he told CBC’s Newfoundland Morning. “As soon as I reached my destination for the walk, I didn’t feel complete.”
Jefferson has spent the last few weeks in Newfoundland, and spoke at the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor on Sunday. He’s working his way west to Gros Morne National Park to spend a bit more time in the province before heading home to British Columbia.
Then he’ll start the whole process over again, this time on his bike.
Started walking for aunt
Jefferson was inspired to start walking when his aunt, Frances Brown, went missing in 2017.
Brown, 53, was picking mushrooms in a forested area north of Smithers, B.C., on Oct. 14, 2017, when she disappeared.
Search and rescue crews couldn’t find her. Neither could the RCMP or friends and family.
Her story is one of many, but Jefferson said it showed him how little his non-Indigenous friends knew about the scope of the MMIWG issue.
So he began training, running 30 kilometres a day to prepare his body for travelling long distances.
Mentally, he took it day by day, handling the unique challenges of each province as he walked across them starting on June 1, 2018. Each step, he was driven by the message behind his mission.
“My message has always been that we need to work together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, and really look out for each other.”
Met with generosity in N.L.
While he didn’t find a satisfactory finish line for his goal in Newfoundland and Labrador, he did find hospitality.
As soon as he landed in the province at Port aux Basques, he went searching for a place to stay. Money was tight, and motel rooms were full.
He called the owner of Right Off Da Boat B&B, who agreed to take him in for free.
When he arrived in St. John’s, he ran into a similar problem.
Jefferson posted on Facebook that he was turned away from a shelter when it was full, so he went from hotel to hotel looking for someone to let him stay for free.
He went to Winsor House, a bed and breakfast in the historic east end of St. John’s, and asked if they could take him in.
The owners, Gery and Lesa Winsor, didn’t have any rooms available, but they placed a cot in an office and let him stay there.
“Not only am I allowed to stay here as long as I need to, but they have been feeding me incredible food and sharing space with me,” Jefferson wrote on Facebook.
Jefferson said he’ll go back to work for a year, before he sets off again from Haida Gwaii in B.C., and heads all the way to Cape Spear.
His aunt will be at the front of his mind once again, as he tries to bring people together along the way.
“My whole journey has not only been to educate, but to really bring things home to people and give them something to hold on to and be personal with.”