The Okanagan Nation Alliance is taking the next step in raising awareness of suicide and violence in the community with their 14th Unity Run.

The 288-kilometre run started on Friday at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and ends at the Syilx Indian Residential School monument on the Penticton Indian Band reserve.

“We did a ceremony first to let the spirits of those kids know what we’re doing (to) bring their spirits home,” said Louis.

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Another goal for the Unity Run is to inform people about issues impacting people in the community. Westbank First Nation council member, Andrea Alexander says she hopes this will inspire people to take action.

“We raise awareness for suicide and violence. As a residential school survivor, I think it’s just awesome to be a part of this. My mother went to residential school, so I’m an intergenerational survivor. I think it’s just great to raise awareness for these sort of initiatives.”

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Jennifer Lewis, a wellness manager with the Okanagan Nation Alliance says the run was originally started by young people and they’ve carried on the tradition over the past 14 years. Lewis says this gives them a chance to connect with themselves and the nature around them.

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“As our young people run, they put footprints on their territory and when they do that they breathe the air and see everything around them. They really get into a relationship with their land, so for sure it brings them closer to their land,” said Lewis.

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Throughout their three-day journey, each runner carried an eagle feather with them, which Louis says serves as a connection to the creator.

“That eagle feather represents our spirituality and so when they carry that eagle feather, that eagle feather hears their prayers while they’re running,” added Louis.

The alliance is looking forward to the 15th annual run next year while continuing to spread awareness in the community.

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