Throw a stone in the water, and ripples extend outward.
Chief Theresa Spence’s Sacred Fast on Victoria Island did not produce a meaningful dialogue with the Crown and the Prime Minister, but it did produce something entirely different and more enduring: a vision.
Seventeen year old David Kawapit Jr., from Quebec’s Whapmagoostui First Nation, on the coast of Hudson Bay, had the vision. In it, he saw a wolf and a bear. The wolf, he explains, is the First Nations’ peoples, and the bear is the government. Singly, the wolf is destroyed, but when the wolf is accompanied by its brothers and sisters, they can easily take down the bear.
And so began the journey, in the northern cold of –50 degrees Celsius. Six young Cree, all under the age of 21, led by the “White Wizard,” Issac Kawapit, aged 46.
The young walkers — David Kawapit Jr., Raymond Kawapit, Jordan Masty, Stanley George Jr., Travis George, Johnny Abraham, and their guide, Issac — were soon accompanied by “brothers” and “sisters,” snowshoe clad, on ancient Cree trade routes.
The journey became an internal, healing journey. The scars of colonization, of residential schools, of forced impoverishment and assimilation run deep. Each walker bears his or her own burden, but each found a sense of commonality, and of shared pain. From this, they drew strength. Feelings of shame, of despair, transformed into newfound feelings of strength pride, and humility.
The 59-day journey, fruit of a powerful vision, finally found its way to the site of Chief Theresa Spence’s Sacred Fast, at Victoria Island, in the shadow of the Parliament buildings and the Supreme Court Of Canada. Here, the now huge assembly of walkers and supporters prayed, sang and feasted, before embarking on a celebratory, redemptive jaunt to Parliament Hill.
As many as five thousand people assembled at the Hill to hear emotional and humble testimonies from the young leaders. Their newfound strength is already bringing a resurgence of pride to First Nations and settlers alike.
The end of The Journey Of Nishyuu also marks the beginning of another transformative journey. This next journey, it is hoped, will transform Canada into a stronger country that respects Mother Earth, respects Indigenous rights — and respects itself.
The walkers of Nishyuu are leading the way.