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Matthew Jefferson is walking across Canada to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women. His aunt Frances Brown, 53, went missing while picking mushrooms along the Highway of Tears. | C. Gilbert photo Craig Gilbert | publisher@fitzhugh.ca

A cloud hangs over the family of Matthew Jefferson.

He brought it with him to Jasper National Park earlier this week, spending Tuesday night at Whistlers Campground before heading down the Icefields Parkway and biting into the 4,000-plus kilometres left on his cross-Canada Walk to Remember. He’s knocked off about 2,000 km in 10 weeks.

A Canadian who speaks with the clip of his Kiwi father, the 31-year-old welder is crossing the continent to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Frances Brown, 53, was picking mushrooms near Smithers along the Highway of Tears on Oct. 14 of last year when she went missing.

Dozens of friends and family members scoured the region for weeks before the winter set in and they had to suspend the search.

Jefferson said in his family’s tradition, any volunteers who come to assist have to be housed and fed, and they can only support so many, so the search team is limited to close family now.

“In our tradition you don’t leave the body for five days after death before the burial so they can be sent off to our ancestors properly,” he said Aug. 7. “Now there’s just a void. It’s brought a lot of families together but it’s tearing apart my family emotionally.”

He started alone in Victoria on June 1 but has been travelling with Mark Vickers, who he met on the road. A motorist picked up Vickers, who was hitching, up on the road and together they rolled by Jefferson. Curious, they swung around and got together to talk about why he was walking. Jefferson said Vargas joined him on the road about a week later.

Jefferson was picked up by New Balance Victoria as a shoe sponsor “right away.” Witset First Nation is supporting the pair on their walk and Jefferson has been presented with a sacred Eagle feather, recognized by a Canadian Indigenous chief as a messenger of his people.

“We’ve been met by so much generosity,” he said, fresh off a free hour-long massage at Summit Massage Therapy and Wellness. Tekarra Color Lab printed them some new, dual-sided and more durable business cards.

Jefferson expects to finish in March. You can follow his journey on The Walk to Remember page on Facebook . His GoFundMe has raised about $370.

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