By the final day of the Journey of the Nishiyuu, the number of young people walking to Ottawa had grown from the “original seven” who left Whapmagoostui in mid-January to nearly 300. At first, the crowd waiting for their arrival on Ottawa’s Victoria Island—where Attawapiskat’s Chief Theresa Spence held her hunger strike at the beginning of the winter—only seemed like it was about the same number. But as we heard that the walkers were delayed by an hour, we also heard that another separate crowd was gathering on Parliament Hill, a ten-minute walk away. The longer we waited, the more our numbers began to swell as well. Before noon, supporters had begun to crowd the sidewalk of the Portage Bridge (which links Quebec with Victoria Island and Ottawa), waiting for police on the Quebec side to shut down the road—the signal that the Nishiyuu walkers were about to appear.

When the moment came, the welcoming crowd began to stream out onto the bridge and it was immediately apparent that we had grown in number into the thousands. Across the bridge, behind the flashing lights of a police escort, we could see the flags of the many Nations represented by the walkers, and a moment later we heard the Nishiyuu crowd break into a roar of joy punctuated by whoops and goose calls. We responded with equal cheers and applause, yelling out a welcome to end the youths’ 1,600 kilometre journey. The Ottawa-side crowd ran toward the walkers; they met near the middle of the bridge, where a sign designated the border between Quebec and Ontario, and as one giant pack the walkers and their welcoming party headed for Victoria Island.

As the Journey ended, there were a lot of hugs shared, whether walkers were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, cousins, friends. There were equally as many tears, both of the joy of loved ones reuniting and of the exhaustion of such a long journey. After participating in a welcome ceremony, the walkers lined up for the meal they had earned.