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Attawapiskat walkers head to Ottawa

Thursday January 9, 2014
Submitted by Jonathan Solomon

Danny Metatawabin, Paul Mattinas, Brian Okimaw and Remi Nakogee walk on the winter road between Attawapiskat and Kashechewan. The walkers began their journey on Jan. 4 and are heading to Ottawa.

A group of Attawapiskat residents have started a walk to Ottawa, calling on First Nations people to “be awakened and take action on matters that affects our existence.”

On Jan. 4, Danny Metatawabin, Brian Okimaw and Paul Mattinas began their journey from Attawapiskat First Nation, walking along the James Bay winter road.

Dubbed “Reclaiming Our Steps Past, Present and Future,” the spiritual journey calls on First Nations to take action and for the federal and provincial governments to honour the treaties.

“We cannot remain silent and/or be silenced no more,” Metatawabin wrote on Facebook. “This is our time. Change is upon us and we are the change.”

A member of Fort Albany First Nation, Metatawabin was the spokesman and close supporter of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence during her hunger strike last winter.

“The time to address and reconcile Aboriginal issues is now! The time to work together with
the utmost respect on a Nation to Nation basis is now!” Metatawabin wrote on Jan. 6. “We are and will continue to be here and we want our rightful place back within this country called Canada.”

The walkers walk during the day, beginning at sunrise and ending at sunset, when they return to the community for the night. They are supported by a group of helpers, who carry supplies on ski-doos and transport the walkers each day when they begin and end their walk.

By the end of Jan. 6, Metatawabin wrote that they are close to the first community, Kashechewan First Nation. He also announced that Remi Nakogee of Attawapiskat joined the walkers.

The walkers are calling for support from the communities of Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moose Factory and Moosonee to help them once they are out of the reach of their Attawapiskat helpers, as well as for a place to spend the night.

They also hope to gain support from Timmins residents.

Kashechewan and Fort Albany held a potluck feast in honour of the walkers as they passed through the communities.

The journey can be followed on Facebook by liking the “Reclaiming Our Steps Past, Present and Future” page.

Ottawa is about 700 kilometres away from Timmins by road, while Timmins is about 500 kilometres south of Attawapiskat.

Almost a year ago to the day, a group of six Cree youth walkers and their guide set out from Whapmagoostui, Que. – located along the Hudson Bay coast – to Ottawa. Called the Journey of Nishiyuu, the walkers were joined by nearly 300 others and they completed their 1,600-kilometre journey in late March.

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