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A Walking Challenge Apology

This year, the NWTRPA Board of Directors have decided to temporarily change the name of our flagship winter event while we engage in a program review as the first step towards decolonization. For 2022 the event previously known as the Walk to Tuk will be known as The NWTRPA Walking Challenge.  

The Board’s letter to our membership follows below: 

An NWTRPA Walking Challenge Apology Trigger Warning: This statement contains details about colonialism and residential schools which could be triggering to some. If you are a residential school survivor or intergenerational survivor, support is available by calling the National Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. NWT residents can also speak with a trained responder for free by calling the NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844.

The NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) would like to apologize for any harm caused by the NWTRPA’s walking challenge’s former name, ‘Walk to Tuk’. For 2022, the name of NWTRPA’s annual winter walking challenge will temporarily be changed to ‘the NWTRPA Walking Challenge’. In 2022, a new name will be found based on the feedback of Indigenous people, NWTRPA Members, Walking Challenge participants and NWT residents.

In January 2021, the NWTRPA received feedback that the name of the organization’s winter walking challenge was disrespectful and harmful to survivors of the residential schools in Canada. 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/Tuktuuyaqtuuq after escaping from residential school in Inuvik/Inuuvık. These three boys, Bernard Andreason, Lawrence Jack Elanik, and Dennis Dick, escaped from Inuvik/Inuuvık’s Stringer Hall residential school in 1972 before embarking on a two-week trek on foot through the bush towards Tuktuuyaqtuuq/Tuktoyaktuk. Two of the boys, Lawrence and Dennis, died on the way, while Bernard was rescued. The tragic story was told in an article published by CBC in 2017 before the opening of the Inuuvık/Tuktuuyaqtuuq highway.

The NWTRPA’s Walking Challenge was created in 2010 to promote physical activity and engage those involved in the NWTRPA’s Nordic walking programs during the winter months. It was originally called the Mackenzie River Nordic Walking Challenge, however, the name changed shortly thereafter based on participant feedback. Over eleven years, the Walking Challenge has grown and evolved into the Northwest Territories’ largest and longest physical activity event. Over the years, the event has sought to support family, language, and connection to the land – the very things that residential schools sought to destroy.

Since 2018, the NWTRPA has been working to accomplish our 2018 – 2021 Strategic Plan which includes several strategies relating to decolonization and reconciliation. We have developed a program review process to guide NWTRPA program content and services ensuring that they are in line with our commitments regarding decolonization and reconciliation. The NWTRPA is working to review the Walking Challenge and the name change is a preliminary step in that process. However, in a meeting that took place on December 20, 2021, the NWTRPA Board of Directors decided that to proceed positively and respectfully the name of the event had to be changed for 2022.

Below we have included a complete list of actions being undertaken by the NWTRPA.

The NWTRPA will:

  • For 2022, refer to the event as the NWTRPA Walking Challenge – the event will no longer be referred to as ‘Walk to Tuk’.
  • Encourage all members, partners, funders, and participants to refer to the event as the NWTRPA Walking Challenge.
  • Begin the process of choosing a new name for the event, based on feedback from stakeholders.
  • Continue with the Walking Challenge program review, in a way that is collaborative, respectful, and transparent. This process will determine what other changes are needed for the NWTRPA Walking Challenge to meet our goals relating to decolonization and reconciliation.
  • Create formal and informal opportunities for stakeholders, especially Indigenous residents, to provide feedback on the Challenge and the review process.
  • Continue to learn and reflect on our role in advancing decolonization and reconciliation in the NWT.

The NWTRPA staff will make every effort to make these changes as soon as possible. However, many will affect all the program’s communications and, therefore, will take some time to put in place.

The NWTRPA would like to thank our funders, sponsors and participants for their ongoing support and participation in the NWTRPA Walking Challenge.


Derek Squirrel President, Board of Directors
NWT Recreation and Parks Association