The annual walking challenge held by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association will no longer be known as the Walk to Tuk.
In a statement this week, the association said the former name “was disrespectful and harmful to survivors of the residential schools in Canada.” The event will instead temporarily be known as the NWTRPA Walking Challenge.
“The name created an unfortunate connection between the event and the experiences of three boys and residential school survivors who tried to walk back to Tuktoyaktuk after escaping from residential school in Inuvik,” the association wrote.
“These three boys, Bernard Andreason, Lawrence Jack Elanik, and Dennis Dick, escaped from Inuvik’s Stringer Hall residential school in 1972 before embarking on a two-week trek on foot through the bush toward Tuktoyaktuk.
“Two of the boys, Lawrence and Dennis, died on the way, while Bernard was rescued.”
The walk has been the association’s flagship winter event since 2010, drawing thousands of participants in almost all of the territory’s communities. Teams are invited to jointly walk 1,658 km, the equivalent of the distance along the Mackenzie River between Fort Providence and Tuktoyaktuk.
Participation is free and prizes are awarded throughout. This year’s challenge began on January 1 and runs until the end of February.
The NWT Recreation and Parks Association said the program would now be reviewed as “the first step toward decolonization.”
A new name will be announced later this year “based on the feedback of Indigenous people, NWTRPA members, Walking Challenge participants, and NWT residents.”