Matthew Jefferson is walking across Canada for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls after his own aunt went missing while mushroom picking just outside of Smithers — a town in British Columbia, Canada.
Since the beginning of his journey on June 1, 2018, Jefferson has walked more than 3,600 miles staying with First Nations communities, uniting with family members, and finding time to heal along the way.
“My aunt Frances Brown went missing just outside of Smithers,” Jefferson said. “And the gentleman that was with her had made it to town but she did not, and so I decided to to walk across Canada. Not only do I get to meet the people, but I get to heal myself as well along this trip.”
In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that Indigenous women are 5 times more likely to be victims
of homicide than non-Indigenous women even though Indigenous women made up only 4% of the female population in 2011.
In the first six months of Jefferson’s trip, he said, “58 women and girls went missing with the recovery of 28 corpses” bringing the total number of missing Indigenous women to 1,182.
Though Jefferson said he presents as white, he is with Wet'suwet'en Nations, from northwestern British Columbia and hopes to help others understand what they can do to be allies to Indigenous communities.
“Non Indigenous communities, they want to help, but they don't know how. So it's my job to educate them on how they can help,” Jefferson said.
When he arrived in Prince George, BC, his relatives threw him a feast and gifted him an eagle’s feather for his journey.
“Now within my culture the Eagle’s feather is given to our messengers,” he said. “The significance of the feather is to lift the weight from one's back and feet so that you can run faster and you can go further. So that had made me in that moment an honorary messenger for my people, my family, my tribe.”
Jefferson’s journey is sponsored by New Balance Victoria. The company gave him shoes to wear during the trek which he is doing entirely by foot. He has also been supported by donations and stays with First Nations communities
“I don't accept rides. I don't hitchhike at all. I don't have a support vehicle. So anything that I need has to be in my pack.”
He has visited 37 Indigenous communities and plans to end his journey in Cape Spear, Newfoundland in roughly the next 3 months. The journey has been an opportunity for Jefferson to experience some growth of his own, while also supporting the Indigenous communities across the country.
“I've been gifted 4 eagles feathers, by varying tribes all across Canada. I was an atheist before I started this trip, and I now believe in the Creator and our ancestors.”