Journeys of hope and determination

Share Button

I am always impressed by the Cree of James Bay who make huge sacrifices on behalf of their community and their nation.

Adults and teenagers from both sides of the James Bay have made epic journeys from remote northern communities to bring their messages to Ottawa.

The courage of these young people is astounding. To make these sorts of journeys through adverse conditions is incredibly brave and deserving of respect. They traveled through freezing temperatures many people in the south would shudder at.

They came to bring a message about issues they as youth were concerned about. In bringing them to the forefront and getting Canadians talking about them they hoped for positive results.

Led by Danny Metatawabin, a group of walkers left the James Bay Cree community of Attawapiskat this January 4 on a trek of more than 1,700 kilometres to Ottawa to raise awareness and call for action to honour First Nations treaties and rights.

Last March, a group of young people from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Quebec, arrived at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, ending a 1,600-kilometre trek meant to bring attention to Aboriginal issues.

Six youths and a guide left Whapmagoostui in January to snowshoe and walk to Ottawa in support of the Idle No More movement. They called the trek “The Journey of Nishiyuu,” which means “The Journey of the People” in Cree.

Neither group was greeted publically by the Canadian government. In both cases, mainstream media coverage of walkers and their concerns was halfhearted at best.

I feel that if it was a group of non-Natives walking from Quebec City or Toronto to Ottawa it would have been a much different story both from politicians and the media. However, a group of First Nations people making these types of incredible journeys are taken for granted in some way.

I see it as a case of subtle racism. First Nations are still seen as being nomadic peoples who are used to these types of hardships and thus it wasn’t really all that impressive.

As I write this, another group of walkers from my community are undertaking a Wellness Journey. I remember mine. It was a life-changing experience even though I only joined the walk for the last week. It was one of the most difficult things I have done. Some days I snowshoed through slush. Other days were unbelievably cold. Yet other days involved helping the dogs pull my toboggan over a mountain. Each day involved setting up camp, getting water and firewood and preparing our meals. In the end it was ultimately rewarding. We arrived back in Mistissini to a warm welcome as many people came out to greet us. One of my cousins with another group lost enough weight he could tighten his belt three more notches.

These aren’t easy trips for anyone, Aboriginal or not. The walkers who journeyed to Ottawa were incredibly brave and deserving of respect. Unfortunately they didn’t find that respect from our government. They made many friends along the way and Canadians assisted and cheered them on. So some of the messages they brought from the North did not fall on deaf ears. I commend these people for their astounding courage.

Share Button

Comments are closed.