A determined band of young Crees – walking 1,100 km from a northern Quebec community to Ottawa – will wind its way through the Gatineau Hills on March 23.
The group – originally numbering six – embarked on what they call the Journey of Nishiyuu, or Quest for Unity, from its community of Whapmagoostui on the shore of Hudson Bay on January 16.
Wearing snowshoes and starting out in minus-40 C weather, the group has grown to about 200 walkers. That number is expected to reach about 300 by the time they walk from Maniwaki, through Low and down to Wakefield.
Parties from Wakefield and Chelsea are planning to welcome the youth on their arrival.
“It was clear they were coming through and they had no place to eat and no food,” said Jasmine Chatelain, who has been following the journey from its beginning. So far, a six-member welcoming committee has secured a lot of help, from food, money, bonfire wood and tent donations and volunteers to prepare meals.
The Municipality of La Peche is also pitching in, donating $1,200 donation to help the village welcome the walkers.
The Wakefield Community Centre will be the group’s resting site for its overnight stay. They will continue the trip early the next morning to Chelsea for another overnight stay before embarking to Victoria Island, with the goal of landing in Ottawa March 25.
Chatelain said a number of Wakefield youth will join the group in Farrellton on March 23 and walk with them to the village. They’re due to arrive at around 7 p.m., but that is liable to change.
They will pitch tents at the Wakefield Community Centre and stop for a meal, but Chatelain said, “it’s not a party.” There will likely be a few prayers and a bonfire, but Wakefield is meant to be a resting stage.
She also said Wakefield will be the first non-Aboriginal community to act as a Journey of Nishiyuu walkers host.
The six Cree youth embarked on the Journey of Nishiyuu during the start of the Idle No More movement, but this walk is not meant to be a protest move.
“This is a strong message to prove to other First Nations across Canada that the Cree Nation of Quebec are not sellouts, but keepers of the Language, Culture, Tradition and more importantly; today, we still carry the sacred laws of our ancestors,” reads the website. You can read more at nishiyuujourney.ca.