February I marked the day that 15 youth and two guides set out on a two-month walk called “Journey Through the Heart of Eeyou/Eenou Estchee.” The walkers will be traveling to each community starting from Whapmagoostui and ending in Mistissini.
Seeing the walkers off was Whapmagoostui Chief Matthew Mukash, Youth Grand Chief Ashley Iseroff and the Whapmagoostui community. These walkers will not only be walking for themselves over the next two months but for the health of others.
This will be a journey of healing of over 940 kilometres inspired by Jimmy Mianscum’s walk last year. The walkers are hoping to raise $150,000 to buy a dialysis machine. Dialysis machines are used to clean the blood of people with severe kidney problems.
Mukash is impressed with the walkers and said the walk is a great project. “It brings back memories from the past for those who still live a traditional life on the land,” he said.
He applauded the reasons for the walk, saying it was a traditional journey that was moving. “It’s a trip of love, traditional values and generosity. They are doing this to help others out.”
Mukash said his community feasted the walkers at the local cultural camp and walked with them across the Great Whale River.
As the two groups parted ways, one to travel 940 kilometres and the others to return home, Mukash remembers some people having
tears in their eyes.
“This is something that really moved our community members.”
Glenn Cooper, who works with the Cree Nation Youth Council, is helping to organize the journey project. He says most of the youth participants either know someone or have relatives who need the dialysis machine.
Presently, Crees with this type of health problem have to travel to Chisasibi, Montreal or Val d’Or for treatment.
The Youth Council believes this problem is very hard on familes, friends and loved ones both in time away and costs of traveling. The youth hope to see a machine located at the Chibougamau Hospital at the end of the two-month walk.
Cooper said Minnie Wapachee, the only female on the tour, has a father who needs the machine: “It’s very personal for them.”
Cooper told The Nation the youth have had the idea of a winter journey for a long time, but the cause helped push it through at long last.
Cooper said the Youth Council is setting up a foundation for those wishing to make donations. “From my home community we have raised $4,000 so far.”
The youth feel they are carrying out traditional activities, while promoting personal healing and growth, continuing to promote the Cree language and maintaining communications between Elders and youth. “This is a trip that shows that the youth are concerned and are willing to carry out Cree traditions while working for a good cause,” Cooper said.