Hundreds of determined youth walkers make history and spread a message
- photo by Ernest Webb
As an eagle soared overhead, the Nishiyuu walkers took their final steps to Parliament Hill on March 25. Emotions finally caught up to the young men who embarked on this epic walk from Whapmagoostui to Ottawa. They hugged each other as speeches were made.
The hardest part of the journey was actually the first leg from Whapmagoostui to Chisasibi – about 100 kilometres as the crow flies. Stanley George Jr., Johnny Abraham, David Kawapit, Raymond Kawapit, Geordie Rupert, Travis George and Isaac Kawapit faced deep snow and wind chill of minus 50. Some of them even had second thoughts as they were weather-bound in their tents. Their guide, Isaac Kawapit, kept them together and made sure they reached Chisasibi.
From then it got easier as their spirits picked up and they were joined by other walkers. By the time they got to Maniwaki their numbers had grown to almost 300, having picked up walkers as they made their way through the Cree lands. Then they reached Algonquin territory and picked up even more walkers. The hardest part for many of them was walking on pavement, which caused blisters and sore feet the more they travelled. One of them had her feet tended to by a doctor and was informed that she would lose a toenail. Her response: “It’s a small price to pay.”
Many people watched the videos and viewed photos of jubilant walkers reaching their destination. The ones who didn’t make the news or the glory of posing for cameras at the finish line were the ones who limped their way in. These were the walkers with bad knees or cramps, whose every step was more painful than the last.
Friends and family patiently waited for them as the crowd dwindled. For many, these walkers were true warriors. One thing many people remarked on was that this was only the beginning. The Journey of Nishiyuu may have ended, but the work has only just begun.