Cycling is not just a mode of transportation or pastime — it also helps people process trauma and communities connect.
During this year’s Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, Homalco First Nation teamed up with the River City Cycle Club for a shared ride. Riders met at the Beaver Lodge Lands and then proceeded together to Spirit Square in downtown Campbell River to join the Orange Shirt Day Walk.
About 25 riders showed up in the Beaver Lodge parking lot, and the group added more on the way downtown. Seeing this turnout was impactful, said Glenn Pallen, Homalco Nation Member, who conducted a ceremony before the ride.
“It’s exciting that they’re willing to know the truth and they’re willing to reconsider,” said Pallen, a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. “What’s happening right here, it’s healing — but it’s not one side; it’s both. We both have to heal.”
The event builds upon Homalco’s bike program, which started last spring to provide bikes to Nation Members, thereby providing them an enjoyable activity that is also therapeutic, explained Natalie Crawford, a clinical counsellor with Homalco First Nation.
“Any activity where you’re using both sides of your body is one of the ways of treating traumatic experiences,” said Crawford. “Also, just having fun and laughing — those are things that actually change your brain chemistry
Cycling groups therefore not only help people connect with each other, but also help people process stress and difficult past events as they ride. The program has proved a success.
“We’ve got some youth who are pretty excited about riding bikes with us,” said Crawford. “It’s been a way to bring people together in a safe way during the pandemic — and to get kids on bikes.”
Pallen has helped drive a van for the program, including for a mountain biking trip to Mountain Washington.
“It was like a holiday in your own backyard,” he said. “About a half dozen of us went up there, and we were flying high.”
As a way to connect to the wider community, Homalco First Nation took part in last spring’s Go By Bike Week.
“That sort of got the ball rolling with some thinking about connecting the Homalco bike program to the bigger community — connecting those two worlds, using the bike club as a bridge for reconciliation and building relationships,” she said.
The shared ride also helps to start conversations about land acknowledgement in outdoor activity communities, said Crawford.
“There’s not always a lot of thought about whose land we’re on and the unceded territory that we’re using to do these activities on,” said Crawford. “I think sometimes the Indigenous piece is missed in those worlds.”