Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Journey of Nishiyuu: Cree youth walking 1500 km to Ottawa

By Michele Bourdieu

The original walkers on the 1500-km Journey of Nishiyuu on Jan. 20, 2013. (Photo by Stanley Jason George)

CHISASIBI, QUEBEC --The Quest of Wisjinichu-Nishiyuu, Quest for Unity -- also known as the Journey of Nishiyuu -- is the ultimate "Idle No More" walk -- begun about two weeks ago by a group of seven young Cree men, mostly in their teens, with two guides, who intend to walk 1500 kilometers from Whapmagoostui on Hudson Bay to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to demonstrate the strength of Cree culture and unity among First Nations.

Robert Savoie posted on the Journey of Nishiyuu Facebook page this possible itinerary from Chief Stanley Jason George. Click on image for larger version.

According to their Facebook page, "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."

On Friday, Feb. 1, they arrived in Chisasibi, Quebec, where they were joined by 16 more walkers.

James Napash took this photo of friends, families and other supporters of the walkers as they set off from Chisasibi on Feb. 4 to continue the journey. "A lot of people came to the Elders camp to show their support for the walkers. Tears were shed, prayers were said, we hugged one another, we are united and together we stand," he says in his post on the Journey of Nishiyuu Facebook page. "Historic Journey, The Journey of Nishiyuu. A movement that will echo for so many years to come. Our Legends have awoken. Today was a powerful day! Breathtaking, truly an amazing sight to see." (Photo by James Napash)

In a radio interview that day on cbc.ca, former Grand Chief Matthew Mukash spoke to Melissa Natachequan about the challenges the walkers face. These include, he said, not only facing the elements -- extreme cold, especially at night, and storms -- but possible conflicts in human relationships and home sickness. Chief Matthew also spoke about the benefits of the experience. Walking on the land "gives you energy," he noted. The walkers may feel the land is communicating with them and helping them see more clearly and put aside negative feelings and thoughts.

"Picture taken earlier today as they went off into the woods to their next destination to the Cree Nation of Wemindji," writes James Napash on Feb. 4, 2013. (Photo by James Napash)

"This journey is not only about the Native people," Chief Matthew said. "It's ultimately about human survival ... on the importance of protecting the land, the environment and the way of life of people. ...We're destroying the environment at a pace that it's getting really, really dangerous -- and also because of the climate change."*

He said these young walkers understand this and have talked to their elders about it. The youth hope, by walking, to "wake up humanity."

The walkers left Chisasibi Monday, Feb. 4, to continue the journey.

Feb. 5, 2013, update from cbc.ca: "As the Nishiyuu Journey gets larger, the chief of Whapmagoostui says people need to step forward to help support the walkers. When the Journey left Chisasibi on Monday, it had grown from 7 walkers to over 30."

* Click here to listen to the radio interview.

To follow the progress of the Journey of Nishiyuu and see photos and videos, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

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