Cree youth go the distance for Idle No More

Mar 11, 2013 | News

The infographic shows the rest stops for the trekkers along the way to Ottawa. INFOGRAPHIC BY SARAH LENNOX

The infographic shows the rest stops for the trekkers along the way to Ottawa. INFOGRAPHIC BY SARAH LENNOX

Compiled by Shazia Islam

A group of young Cree men and an elder guide are on a historic trek from Hudson Bay to Ottawa in support of the Idle No More movement and Chief Theresa Spence’s recent hunger strike.

The Toronto Star reported in a March 8 article that the trek began in mid-January with the trekkers planning to reach Ottawa by March 25.

The group is made up of teenage members of the James Bay Cree town of Whapmagoostui and a 42-year-old guide.

Seventeen-year-old David Kawapit Jr. told CBC News that he initiated the plan as a way of raising awareness about the importance of aboriginal ways of life.

Kawapit said walking in sub-zero temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius was a challenge at first, but his group, clothed in parkas and mukluks, remained motivated.

Whapmagoostui Chief, Stanley George, told CKLB Radio that the group’s aim is to uphold Cree traditions and practices in Quebec.

“The Cree nations of Quebec, like other nations, are keepers of our language; we use it every day, at work, school, wherever we are. We still hunt and practice the traditional way of life every chance we have,” George said.

The name of the trek is the Quest of Wisjinichu-Nishiyuu, which means the quest for unity in the Cree language, and involves a 1,500-kilometre journey on foot to the nation’s capital, according to the Toronto Star.

The trekkers have so far covered over 1,000 kilometres, the Star reported.

Matthew Mukash, spokesperson for the trekkers and former Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec, told the Star that the young activists were very “determined.”

The group has grown since it started from seven to nearly 100 as supporters in different towns joined, the Star reported.

In recent months, there has been an increase in creative grassroots activism among indigenous groups in Canada that reflects the cultures and customs of their respective communities, said Indian Country Today Media Network.

George told CKLB that the trek hopes to connect all the different aboriginal movements and to promote unity and diversity in Canada as a whole.