Meenwach’heewouwan Maskinnou walkers on the road to healing

Share Button

The Meenwach’heewouwan Maskinnou walkers are on the healing path – the healing path that represents the name of their group and the reason they are snowshoeing from Moose Factory to Chisasibi.

Inspired by Christine Chewanish, the group of walkers includes Chewanish’s friends Jaycie Moar and Joane Matowaham, Redfern Mianscum and his daughter Afeni from Oujé-Bougoumou, and Cheryl Moore from Moose Factory.

The six left Moose Factory February 6. With the help of runners from communities along the way, the group is trekking to Waskaganish, Eastmain and Wemindji and stopping at several hunting camps on the route to Chisasibi.

“A friend and I had always talked about doing something like this,” said Chewanish, during a stop in Waskaganish. “My friend told me to wait for her, to stop using drugs and alcohol, and I’ve been waiting for her for five years.

“About a month ago I started thinking I should just start walking. What happened in Val-d’Or with those women [bringing allegations against the Sûreté du Québec] pushed me to get into this walk. I went to see my Chief [in Chisasibi] and told him what my plan was; I told him I wanted to go on a journey.”

Chewanish said the name Meenwach’heewouwan Maskinnou was given to the walkers by the Nishiyuu Council of Elders. She says that she has her story written down, a letter that she carries with her explaining how she’s been hurt and why she is walking.

Between her experiences of abuse, the experiences of her friends and the hurt incurred upon her family, her community and her Nation, Chewanish has seen enough and wants to break the cycle of trauma, for herself and for others.

“I want to connect people so they can be strong and help each other heal,” she said. “[When out on the road] I feel strong, I find myself. I’ve been looking for healing for a long time and now I’m trying to help myself. This is my fourth journey and I really like it. This is where I find my healing.”

Asked about the other walkers’ motivations and inspirations, Chewanish said it’s up to them if they’d like to share. “It’s one thing I never asked them – I’m just waiting for them to say something,” she laughed.

Christine Ranger Chewanish

Christine Chewanish holding snowshoes representing one journey ending and another journey beginning

Moore, a nurse from Moose Factory, said Chewanish is a source of inspiration. When she heard about Chewanish’s intention to put together a healing walk, Moore immediately wanted to join.

“When I heard about Christine coming to the community, I said to myself, ‘Oh, I wish I could go!’” she recalled. “But then I started thinking about work, because it’s a long trip. But the band I work for said that if I wanted to go they would support me, so I said, ‘Okay I’m going!’ and it’s been really good since we’ve left.”

While the journey was a little spur of the moment, Moore stated that so far everything has come together for the walkers.

“There was no plan in place or no money,” Moore said, referring to Chewanish setting the walk in motion with the help of organizer Gertie Neacappo. “She’s just going with the flow and people are supporting it. Each community has been really helpful – it’s really awesome. So far we’re six, but there will be more people joining us in Eastmain and Wemindji.

“They were really nice to us in Waskaganish,” she continued, “greeting us, feeding us, presenting us with special gifts. In Moose Factory, they introduced us at the powwow and we had a service at the Community Complex. One Cree business gave us a bunch of food.”

Describing the journey so far, Moore said, “We stopped at three camps between Moose Factory and Waskaganish. We all walked and Redfern walked across the bay for us, plus we had runners helping us.

“It’s been exciting, it’s been tiring, it’s been emotional and it’s been powerful. It’s a really good energy being out there and connecting with each other as we travel. You can feel the relationship getting stronger as we move along.”

Cheryl Moore of Moose Factory, Ontario

Cheryl Moore of Moose Factory, Ontario

Outlining the walkers’ daily travelling routine, Moore said the six are pulling a sled with their essentials while runners from each destination help carry some of the heavier stuff. “We stop for a break once in a while, but we try to just keep going [when we’re on the road],” she said.

“We’re walking about 20, 25 kilometres a day and there’s no real set plan or route that we’re following. We’re just going, seeking healing and getting information from each other and from the communities.”

Moore declined to go into the details of her personal life and the difficulties that she’s faced, but admitted that there have been many challenges over the years.

“Everybody has personal stories and struggles that they’re going through,” she said. “That’s a common thing for a lot of people and we need to make it known. We’re all struggling and we need to help each other. With Chewanish’s vision and her drive to do this, things are really going well.”

Since speaking with the Nation, the Meenwach’heewouwan Maskinnou arrived and departed Eastmain, soldiered on to Wemindji and are scheduled to arrive in Chisasibi by March 5.

Share Button

Comments are closed.