As we awake on our last day of the journey, we will leave Nukum Elizabeth Penashue and the 17 other walkers to finish the climb of the beautiful Meally Mountains to end the three week adventure in Pants lake. This is a not only a physically enduring walk. it is one's own spiritual self empowerment journey. Each walker will learn new and uplifting experiences that will be ingrained in their own memory. What they do with that, will be up to them. Should they chose to share, should they chose to keep those memories to themselves that would be up to each individual. Today, it's through my gift of visualizing and being able to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard I will share my day seven.
On this day we have walked seven days some very short some very long, some on snowshoe and some in just our mocassins. We have shared food, shared sleeping quarters and stories. Today, we are beginning the first day of the climb of the mountain. Before we begin, we take pictures with my motherinlaw, known in the area of Labrador as "Tshakuesh" Penashue. This is a bittersweet moment one that I thought I would never have to see. I explain to her the evening before that because of my education commitments my children and I will not be able to complete this journey with her. She nods, and says she is very grateful for us to be there for that long and is so thankful that her third eldest son, my husband Jack is able to continue with her. She thanks me for that. I too return the thanks for letting us accompany her. I tell her "nukum, when I leave tomorrow, try not to be too sad, ok?" She agrees.
After the picture taking, she leads the way into the path which is at the bottom of the mountain. My family has done this before, we know what is in store for us. We know that the climb is going to become steep and more physically challenging. As we walk into the woods, I silently pray to my late Fatherinlaw, known as Francis. I asked that he watch over the walkers and now show us that we are doing the right thing. Growing up, I have always been taught pray, give thanks for everything and everyone. Love one another, be kind, be gentle. This is what I continue to pray for. I thank the Creator for everything that he has given us and in return for good health, good luck for everyone on this journey.
Today, is an emotional day. I ask for strength for Tshakuesh. This is her first and last walk to her late husbands traditional hunting and gathering area without him. There has been a few times that I felt my Fatherinlaw but today his spiritual presence is so overwhelming it brings tears to my eyes. The weather has been beautiful thus far but today it feels like spring. The glistening of the snow on the trees, the signs of partridge. We continue to walk, there is some walkers that go on ahead and there is some that are behind. Tshankuesh along with myself and six of her grandchildren are together. She is telling us stories and we are remembering along the way of old camps from previous walks. She speaks softly and quietly. The kids are listening attentively and smiling as their nukum speaks. We continue to walk along and we come across a big rock along the path. She tells the kids slow down and wait there. They listen, her and I catch up to them. She tells them to wipe the snow off the rock, than she tells them. This is Mushum, the grandfather everytime I walked with Mushum we would stop. I would stop and pray to the rock for strength, than kiss and thank the grandfather for his strength. She than sheds some tears and tells the kids when you kids get older you will understand why you give thanks to Mushum. It's hard to understand right now but you will know why I do this. She prays in Innu Aimun, kisses the rock and tell the kids to do the same. What are the chances of us being alone at that particular time, very slim, but there we stood sharing a private emotional moment.
We hear a skidoo in the distance, coming down the mountain. There is panic that rushes over me. For one spilt second I fear that perhaps we were not meant to be here. We weren't given no animals, I have come to know that being given animals is a gift and powerful in the Innu traditions. I know that on the skidoo is my husband coming to pick us up to return to the community life. Nukum also knows that we will be departing shortly. My husband approaches and tells us in Innu that they have a porcupine. My heart is overwhelmed with joy and happiness because this is affirmation that we are we where we are supposed to be. My motherinlaw approaches me. As we hug we cry and tell each other we love one another. She asks me to deliver a letter to my mother and asks for prayers. I tell her Nukum we will all pray for you and everyone else with you. She again thanks me and tells me she will miss us very much. We release one another and wipe our tears and smile. I than proceed to hug and kiss the others that are around. We depart, I sit on the back of the skidoo and shed some tears. I am so sad to leave Nutshimit, the bush, the country. I know I will return for this has been put in my path for a reason and I have to receive these teachings. Again, I am humbled and overwhelmed with emotions to be given such an opportunity to experience the life of those that have gone before me. As we ride back to the community with the sun setting behind us. I know in my heart we will see another sunrise and sunset in nutshimit till next time. Thank you Nimushum, we love you!