Walker says Elders' tears over Harper government's treatment of First Nations people sparked march to Ottawa

The tears of elders drove a group of six Mi’kmaq from Listuguj to walk about 900 kilometres from their community in Quebec to Ottawa.

(Walkers from Listuguj, Que., arrived in Ottawa early Tuesday morning after walking nearly 900 km. Pictured are Adam Barnaby, 25, (left) and Ryan Papineau, 26, (right). APTN/Photo)

APTN National News
OTTAWA--The tears of Elders drove a group of six Mi’kmaq from Listuguj to walk about 900 kilometres from their community in Quebec to Ottawa.

Adam Barnaby, 25, said Elders in his community often shed tears during ceremonies when they spoke about what the Harper government was doing to First Nations people and the land.

“I kept hearing elders cry about what the Harper government was doing to our people, the Mi’kmaq First Nations people, and why are they tearing up the land,” said Barnaby.

Initially his friends laughed at the idea of walking from Listuguj to Ottawa but, after a sweat in Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, Barnaby decided the walk had to happen.

So, on May 1, a group of seven left Listuguj and six arrived in Ottawa early Tuesday at about 2:30 a.m. They called themselves the “Peace and Friendship Walkers” in reference to the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown.

“It was a roller coaster of a ride. We received a lot of positive support. We did receive some negative remarks from people passing by,” said Ryan Papineau, 26. “People came out to us in tears; right after someone gave us the middle finger. That is the way the Creator works in these polarities of positive and negative.”

The group walked and ran in turns with a van following behind. The three women in the group slept in a trailer and the three men slept in tents. Every morning the group conducted ceremonies to push them on along the highway.

“Our ancestors, they walked with us and gave us the strength we needed to carry on and we sent them off in the evening,” said Papineau.

The group sat through question period on Tuesday afternoon, but missed by 30 seconds a statement delivered in the House of Commons from their local NDP MP Philip Toone.

Toone said the walk was “just the latest example of the leadership the Mi’kmaq Nations have taken in the Gaspe and across Atlantic Canada.”

Papineau said the “theatrics” of question period, which swirled around Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, left him longing for substance.

“I don’t have a lot of faith invested in the current system of government,” said Papineau. “First Nations people have to develop their own systems of government.”

The Mi’kmaq of Listuguj have been at the forefront of the Idle No More movement and community members launched a rail blockade in January in support of the Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence during her hunger strike.

Barnaby said to expect Listuguj to again be on the front lines once Idle No More’s Sovereignty Summer hits full swing in the coming months.

“We are not going to stop, we are going to keep blocking the roads and keep blocking the railroads,” said Barnaby. “It is Idle No More and we are not idling.”

Last week, a group of walkers from Manitoba arrived in Ottawa and in March a group of walkers from Quebec’s northernmost Cree community were met by thousands of people on Parliament Hill at the end of their 1,600 kilometre walk.

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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.

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