The Nation’s first-hand report of the historic arrival of the Nishiyuu Walkers



photo by Ernest Webb


The Nation spoke to a few of the thousnads of people waiting for the Nishiyuu walkers about why they had come out, and what the Journey of Nishiyuu meant to them.

Here’s what they said:


Vivian Snowboy, Mistissini

I’m overwhelmed. The feeling is unexplainable – there are no words for it. It’s just pure joy. I’ve followed them since day one. I know a lot of them – many of my cousins are walking. I’m really proud. It brings all nations together. I really hope [as a result of this] that we will be treated better, especially where we live, on the reserves. Not to be pushed around – just to get that respect.


Candace Sheshamush, Whapmagoostui

We came down from North Bay, where I go to school. I wanted to show my support. I’m really proud of the youth who started this journey – that’s where I’m from, so I feel very proud and emotional to be here today.

It’s a small community, so I know all of [the original seven]. I find them very courageous to be doing this. A lot of people doubted them, but now they’re here, and it’s really unbelievable.

I hope there’s more awareness of the issues, and I hope that people won’t turn away from the issues that need to be resolved for this generation and for future generations. I hope that they will have a better chance of having a good future.

I think the walk will change them in a positive way.  I find that they’ve changed so much, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I’ve been following their web pages and I see the proof of it there.


Donna Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi

We have a niece who’s been walking since Kitigan Zibi. We’re all really proud of her. She’s of Algonquin and Mohawk ancestry, and she’s been excited and overwhelmed every night… and exhausted. She’s determined to do this, regardless of the bloody blisters on her feet, the cramping muscles. When she learned about this walk, that it was the youth who started it, she was determined to join and finish it, and she’s finishing it today.

For the youth, and all First Nations people, what we’re getting from this is a sense of unity. We’re not doing it just for unity, but also to protect Mother Earth, because we see the abuse of the land and water – this famous Bill C-45 that is restricting the clean water. For First Nations people that’s survival, that’s living off the land. The young people saw this and they decided that it was time for the youth to rise up and do something about it, in support of Chief Theresa Spence and her hunger strike, and the Idle No More movement that started it. This is something that the youth have taken on. If you look at the walkers, they’re all youth, and they’ve got a lot of support.

A lot of people are going to find their spirituality and want to learn about their cultures. As you know, First Nations people are at a high risk for suicide, crime, violence, jail and incarceration. I was talking to a lot of walkers on their way in, and they told me they’re each doing it for their own reasons. Some to fight drugs and alcohol, some for suicide, some for missing and murdered women.

The Nation spoke to several walkers about their epic journey experiences.


Tommy Lee Ratt, Chisasibi

What we have to do is continue from where we started, and build from it. This is not the end. If we can build for our community, that’s all. Don’t give up. There’s always a new day – a better day.


Curtis Ratt, Chisasibi

I’m happy and sad at the same time that this will end soon. It makes you believe in your dreams.


William Head, Chisasibi

I’ve been walking for two months. My feet are suffering. But it feels great.


Harold Mukashish Jr., Lac Simon

I’ve been walking 16 days. I joined to support the seven walkers, to make an example for the youth generation. We need to protect the land, our mother, so the future generations can still go hunting in the bush and not forget our culture.


Tara Martinhunter, Chisasibi

I’m from Chisasibi, but I started from Eastmain. I don’t know why – I just, I had a dream about snowshoes. I had no idea why I had that. Then I found out about the Journey of Nishiyuu. There was shadows, clouds – there was everything there. I cried when I woke up. There was so many things changed: when I looked at my shoes, there was a different vision. When I went to Eastmain and I started walking, I looked at my snowshoes and I noticed they were the same [as in the dream], and I cried walking with my friends.


Sage Mukash, Whapmagoostui

I started in Waskaganish in January. I wanted to join in from the beginning when David Kawapit Jr. told me what he wanted to do. It was a big idea for a 17-year-old. I wanted to support him any way I could. Finally, my parents let me join in Waskaganish. He really inspired me to go, to send a message that Aboriginal people are still standing strong, and we’re not going to let anything happen to us.

This generation is sending this message clear. We’re doing this, and we’re going to do it for our kids and our grandchildren: our culture and language will not be lost.

I knew at times it would be really hard, but I kept going. There were times I wanted to quit because it was hard – mentally, emotionally and physically. But I had a lot of people tell me to stay, to motivate me.

I was walking first for my own personal issues – to fight depression. So, when they say you’re not alone, you’re not alone. Even if you think you are. There’s a lot of people out there dealing with the same thing you are.