Webequie man paddles to Peawanuck
A Webequie First Nation man paddled from his community down the Winisk River to Peawanuck First Nation in an effort to raise awareness of the people in the north who are on dialysis.
Gilbert Jacob departed Webequie on July 27 and arrived in Peawanuck seven days later on Aug. 3 as the community was hosting Creefest, a cultural festival organized by the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council.
Jacob said people are unaware of the issues facing people on dialysis who often are forced to move from their community because the equipment and treatment is not often available in the north.
“I was there with my mom for like almost five years,” Jacob said. “I’ve seen her suffocate and I did this trip for a cause and for everyone to be aware of.”
Dialysis is the process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, a process performed by the kidneys. People on dialysis have lost kidney function due to acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease, and dialysis is used as an artificial replacement.
Because patients need regular treatment of dialysis, which is not available in many northern communities, they often must move down south where it is more accessible.
Jacob moved to Thunder Bay with his mother so she could access the treatment.
“There’s about six people on dialysis (from Webequie) living in Thunder Bay,” Jacob said. “I know it’s pretty hard to get them transported everywhere.”
Jacob’s mother passed on last fall, and he said part of the trip was to honour her.
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to do this trip for everybody,” he said. “Not just for me, but my son and his generation too.”
Jacob said he wants the First Nations leaders to be aware of the issue.
“I hope they understand we need don’t to suffer anymore,” he said.
Jacob said the paddling trip was healing and offered a spiritual journey for him.
“It was unbelievable, I can’t even explain,” he said. “As soon as I got here, tears of joy.”
And when he told others of his plan to paddle the Winisk River alone, he was met with skepticism.
“People told me, ‘that’s impossible. You’re going alone?’” he said. “That’s a message to the young people too. Anything is possible.”
Jacob has some family roots in Peawanuck, and he said he enjoyed taking part in the Creefest festivities.
“I enjoyed meeting my friends and relatives here,” he said. “And visiting the Elders too.”
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