by Britnae Purdy
On January 16, seven Cree youth, led by two experienced guides, departed their community of Great Whale on the Hudson Bay to begin The Quest of Wisjinichu-Nishiyuu (Quest For Unity), a journey that will take them across 1,100 km to reach Parliament Hill, Ottawa, the seat of Canada’s federal government. Inspired by the Idle No More Movement, they seek to promote unity and a refocusing on traditional values.
Temperatures in the region are expected to rise no more than 16 degrees F and dip as low as -19 degrees F at night, though with wind-chill it will feel closer to -50 degrees. There is a daily chance of snow.
On an individual level, it is a journey towards adulthood. Several of the youth, who are all young men, will celebrate their 18th birthdays on the trip. The youngest walker will be turning 17. The boys are learning key navigation, survival, and leadership skills. As the Chief of Great Whale, Stan George, said in a press release, “They left as young men to carry the heaviness and emptiness that surrounds us all, but they will return home as Great Men, our Warriors!”
But this trek embodies a spirit much larger than seven individuals. The boys seek to unite the First Nations of Canada by traveling the traditional trade routes of the Cree, Algonquin, and Mohawk. And it is being done amidst the growing Idle No More movement, where indigenous people across Canada and the world are demanding their rights and sovereignty.
Their effort appears to be working. The journey’s Facebook page has over 12,500 members worldwide. The page has become a gathering spot for people to share their prayers and well-wishes for the boys’ journey. Photos are added nearly every day, showcasing the walkers, the impressive frozen landscape, and the traditionally-made snow-shoes and winter shelters that the boys are learning to build.
“They will walk,” says Chief Stan George, “to deliver a strong message to other First Nations across Canada that the Cree Nation of Quebec are not sell-outs but true keepers of their language, culture, traditions, and more importantly today, that the Cree Nation continues to respect the sacred laws of our ancestors. The time to stand united is now, we support the Idle No More movement and respect the duties entrusted upon our leaders. Through peaceful processes, unity, and proper negotiations, we can solidify our rights to ensure the earth and our way of life will be fully protected forever.”
These Cree young men are trekking a 1100km to promote peace and unity. Let’s all join them in spirit and action and begin our trek of peace an unity with each other and the planet.