Walking to Ottawa
This photograph was taken on 16 January by Rachel Kawapit, a member of the Whapmagoostui First Nation, who live in Northern Quebec on the shores of Hudson Bay. It shows David Kawapit, Stanley George Jr, Geordie Rupert, Travis George, Johnny Abraham and Raymond Kawapit, aged between 16 and 19, with their guide Isaac Kawapit (47),setting off to walk a thousand miles from Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuaraapik to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, through temperatures lower than -30ºC, as part of the Idle No More movement, protesting against the violation of Aboriginal Treaty Rights.
Since being re-elected two years ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has pushed through parliament a number of measures (tucked away in 900-page omnibus bills) that weaken environmental protection laws and First Nations’ control over their land. Russell Diabo, a First Nations policy analyst, calls the legislation part of a ‘Termination Plan’.
One of the aims of the Journey of Nishiyuu was to ‘reinforce the traditional bonds that existed between the Cree Nation and our historical allies by restoring the traditional trade routes that linked the Cree, Algonquin, Mohawk and other First Nations throughout Turtle Island for the betterment of future generations.’ The young men from Whapmagoostui have travelled more than 200 miles so far, and been joined by 23 other walkers along the way. More will be joining them from other communities, including some Inuit youth. You can follow their progress here.