Journey of Nishiyuu began with vision, ends with hope wolves will unite

The 1,600 kilometre Journey of Nishiyuu, which began with a vision of a wolf facing a bear, neared its epic climax Monday with a final march on Parliament Hill.

(Journey of Nishiyuu walkers on Hwy 105 in Quebec and heading toward Parliament Hill on Monday. Photo courtesy of Andrea Schmidt)

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
CHELSEA, Que-The 1,600 kilometre Journey of Nishiyuu, which began with a vision of a wolf facing a bear, neared its epic climax Monday with a final march on Parliament Hill.

Standing in the parking lot in Chelsea, Que., about 18 kilometres north of Canada’s capital, and surrounded by about 200 people, David Kawapit said the idea of the journey began after he had a vision while at a friend’s house during the protest fast of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Spence pitched a teepee this past December on an island in the Ottawa River demanding a meeting with the federal government.

Kawapit says he was moved by Spence’s fast and was thinking about how he could also join the struggle for First Nations rights when a vision appeared. While Kawapit said he would recount the full vision during a planned speech beneath the Peace Tower later Monday, he revealed that part of it involved a wolf and a bear. He said the wolf symbolized First Nations people in Canada and the bear symbolized the government.

“A wolf alone can be easily killed by it, but with its brothers and sisters everywhere, it can call upon them and it can take down the bear with ease,” said Kawapit. “That is what became the unity part of this. We all need to stand together.”

Kawapit is from Whapmagoostui First Nation, a fly-in community of about 800 Cree people that sits just above the 55th parallel along the eastern Hudson Bay coast in Quebec. Now, nearly three months later Kawapit, who is one of the original seven walkers who began this journey, prepares to take his final steps toward Parliament Hill.

The unity theme spurred him across frozen lakes and gave him strength trudging through drifts on snowshoes, he said.

“Uniting First Nations across Canada and other Indigenous people takes time,” he said. “I hope I am still alive when it’s done.”

With a group of Algonquins joining the march in its final days, part of his vision appears to be coming true.

Kathleen Jacko, 23, from the Algonquin First Nation of Kitigan Zibi, said she took the day off from work to walk with the Cree Monday.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” said Jacko, who joined the marchers on Sunday. “I thought, I have to do this.”

The approaching end brings mixed feelings of joy and sadness for some.

Natalie Mathias, from Winneway First Nation in Quebec, was loading up supplies into the back of a cube truck for the last time. She struggles briefly to compose her emotions.

“You don’t want to say goodbye. I’ve been with these people for so long,” said Mathias, who has been with the walkers for nearly a month.

Others say they will carry the memories from the journey with them forever.

Benjamin Capassisit, 22, from the Ojibway First Nation of Mattagami in Ontario, has memories scrawled on his jacket in the form of signatures from the people he’s met along the way.

“I wanted something to remember everyone by,” said Capassisit, who joined the journey a month ago. “This journey, it made me a lot happier. I was quiet and shy.”

Whapmagoostui First Nation Chief Stanley George says he feels nothing but pride.

“I don’t want it to end,” he said. “I’ve never been so proud of my young people…People keep asking, what is the message. The whole walk is the message.”

George said he also found out this weekend that his community’s peewee hockey team had also captured the regional championship.

Jordan Masty, 22 one of the original walkers, says the walk is also about the future.

“We still want to keep our culture, our land because of the next generation,” he said.

Geordie Rupert, 21, who is also one of the original walkers, said the long kilometres have yet to sap his energy.

“I love all my people,” he said. “We are going to start another journey after we finish this.”

The walkers plan to journey to Victoria Island, which is where Spence held her fast in the shadow of the Parliament buildings and the Supreme Court. From there they will march to Parliament Hill for a day of speeches and celebration.

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

4 thoughts on “Journey of Nishiyuu began with vision, ends with hope wolves will unite

  1. I hadn’t heard of the Cree walkers until a few days ago. It’s truly astounding. I hope that they documented their journey. I am more interested in knowing what this meant for them rather than than having their message drowned out by all the political players that latched onto this accomplishment for their own purposes.

    I heard the message of peace and love from them. What would be the purpose of the prime minister showing up to put himself in the limelight? This was the Cree walkers moment to shine; not the prime minister’s or the NDP’s or the Liberals. Why couldn’t they just stand up and say that was fantastic? Why do they have to try and turn it into something ugly?

    There is a sharp contrast between the message of the Cree walkers and other youth protests in this country. It isn’t just a message and a model for aboriginal youth. I hope that “white” youth will take a lesson from the Cree walkers as well.

  2. True Warrior spirit being shown by these young people i wish them good luck, and thank them for their courage and commitment to their people and our causes. As for those who who choose to remain on their couches and just watch while these young people fight for equality and justice, shame on you.

    1. Yeah, I agree. I’d thought the young had lost their inner fire and vision these days…but no, there are some…I’m right proud of these kids, right proud! So pleased they arrived safely. <3 x

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