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Activist Communique: The Journey of Nishiyuu and the power of First Nations spirituality

It began with a vision.

For those unfamiliar with First Nations spirituality -- while in no measure homogeneous or pan-Indian -- there is a recurring, ancient understanding of the power of visions.

David Kawapit, 18, had a vision of a wolf facing a bear.

This is how the journey of Nishiyuu began.

The Nishiyuu walkers travelled 1600 kilometers from Whapmagoostui First Nation (Cree) -- which sits at the mouth of the Great Whale River on the border of both Cree and Inuit territory in Quebec's James Bay Treaty area.

They were a small number at first, travelling through forest and bush where there are no roads with the help of snowshoes, camping out in tents at night. The roughly two month journey began with seven community members and swelled by the end to an estimated 300 walkers; some with drums, others carrying Eagle Staffs and flags.

They walked under the bright winter sun and through blizzards to bring attention to the numerous issues facing First Nations communities today; from the lack of clean drinking water to inadequate, 'Third-World' housing conditions.

When the walkers arrived at their final destination of Ottawa yesterday, they were greeted by thousands and the lighting of a Sacred Fire. People lined the roads as if waiting for Terry Fox or the Queen of England. 

It was a beautiful sight. The second I tracked down the Livestream link, I was fixed to the screen. I stopped beading because my eyes were blurry from tears of joy. We all need victories. Nevermind that Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend the welcome. The walkers should own this moment. You only live once (YOLO).

As the Livestream camera and reporter Shanger-from-Iceland toured through the crowd to interview people, I was struck by the humbleness of the walkers and their supporters -- in contrast to that of current Assembly of First Nation (AFN) Chief Shawn Atleo and Matthew Coon Come who also spoke yesterday.

When set upon by Shanger-from-Iceland to an online audience that spanned, "every continent but Antarctica," there was a quiet pride and plenty of humour. There were tears. There was gratitude for the warm welcome and feast in the walkers' honour just as there was gratitude towards the walkers for suffering for the people.

Just as Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat (a fellow Cree) had a vision which led to her infamous hunger strike, 18 year old David Kawapit had a vision for his peoples too.

Idle No More is alive and well, in the spirit of the 11 year old girl who joined the walkers after pleading with her parents to let her join.  She wanted to march in support of the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Turtle Island.

Bindigen, Nishiyuu walkers to Ottawa, you might not understand yet -- you must be exhausted and need time for the impact to set in -- the sheer impact your courage has had on the Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity community, but know from the bottom of our hearts that we thank you.

'Chi Miigwetch. Ollu Giitu. Know that last night in Toronto, we sang the AIM Unity song in your honour.

Thank you for sharing your vision with us.

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