Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Snowshoe Walk 2009

The walk went very, very well this year. I was so happy to have completed it, even with a small group at the end. No matter how many people accompany me, I will always keep walking for the protection of the land, trees, mountains, animals, rivers, lakes, for the future of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, the Innu community and for Innu culture and way of life. I hope more people will join me next year.

The group varied in size throughout the 3 weeks on the land. We had many visitors and were happy when people came out even if their commitments at home kept them from walking this year. One 8 year old grandson walked with me nearly the entire trip, walking some days and helping Francis on the skidoo other days. Many of our children came to visit or stay for a night. We have 9 children, 39 grandchildren (41 this summer) and 9 great-grandchildren. The Chief of Sheshatshui walked for several days. Other grandsons and young men walked and helped Francis. A Cree woman from Manitoba walked for 10 days—we shared many similar experiences, struggles and dreams, and she is preparing to do cultural teaching and healing on the land in her community. A local woman from Northwest River came for one week for the second year in a row. A young Ojibwa/Mi’kmaq woman from Toronto walked for several days. A friend who used to live in Sheshatshui 30 years ago came from Halifax for one week. A friend who recently moved to Happy Valley with MCC walked with me for almost the entire trip. An independent filmmaker from New York City was along the whole time.

The group became like family to each other and living together brought out the best qualities in all of us. We shared everything—food, space, stories, work, and laughter. Francis and I worked together preparing the tent and hunting. We each have our different responsibilities. Living on the land reveals the strong bonds that connect all of life. None of us could live without the earth, water, animals, sun, and our communities. It is important to learn how to live in balance and not take too much or cause damage.

Early in the trip there was quite a bit of wind and snow, but many days were sunny. The weather was very good the last week of walking. Spring arrived and we walked without jackets sometimes and even had the tent door open on days we stayed at camp. We were very fortunate and had no troubles along the way. All members of the group were in good health. One person got sick one evening, but he rested, ate, and was ready to walk again the next day.

Several of my grandsons are very good hunters and caught fish, partridge and rabbit for our meals. We also caught porcupine. When a porcupine was caught we would stay at camp out of respect for the animal and I would prepare it over the fire in the traditional way.

We arrived at Pants Lake on March 25. It was a very special moment for the whole group. Pants Lake is along a traditional travel route for Francis’ family and just miles from where Francis was born. I began going there once we were married. We sang and danced when we came to the place where the river meets the lake. The land, trees and water welcomed us and as did the spirits of the Innu who have walked that way before, the ancestors that have died.

We came back into the community Thursday evening March 26. The adjustment back is quite difficult. Life in the bush is very integrated, while life in town is more disconnected. I feel sad every time I return to the community. I remember the pain my family, along with many others, experienced when we were forced to move from our nomadic life on the land to town life. The two experiences are so different it is almost impossible to find ways to bring them together.

For the first year ever my family organized a large community meal in honour of the 13 years we’ve been doing the walk and canoe trip. No matter how hard it is I am committed to the land, the youth and Innu culture and I try to teach the young people in a good way. I do not do this for profit or fame, but for life—the life of our people and all living things!

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