The spirit walkers on the 2017 Healing Walk for all people braved two days of rainfall to reach the Terry Fox monument near Thunder Bay on June 30.
“It was very difficult, but yesterday we walked for suicide,” says Judy Desmoulin, one of the walk organizers from Long Lake #58. “Our community is one community that doesn’t have a high rate of suicides, but we always feel for other communities who are going through that. So yesterday, when we walked through the rain it was extra hard and our youth really pushed themselves because they really wanted to make a mark in showing how much they really care for the other youth in the other communities.”
About 40 walkers were participating in the walk when they reached the Terry Fox memorial, including former regional chief Charles Fox, who walked all the way from the Ginoogaming band office.
“It was very uplifting, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, (and) physically demanding,” Fox says. “The last day of the walk I finally got blisters. But to honour each day with a different theme is good. Today is land, water and air.”
The 320-kilometre walk focused on a different issue each day: Drugs/Alcohol Addictions; Cancer; Missing Women/Men; Residential School/Day School Survivors/Descendants; Suicide; Land, Water and Air; and Racism. The walkers began and ended each day with a ceremony.
Fox says many of the youth joined the walk at the Nipigon bridge, where a special walk was held over the bridge.
“That was an awesome (event) to see,” Fox says. “You had a couple of hundred people walking across — a lot of people came to join us from the surrounding area, so that was nice. And they blocked off the bridge for us to do that. They stopped traffic both ways, so that was awesome.”
The walkers began on June 25 and are scheduled to finish the walk on July 1 with a walk from City Hall in Thunder Bay to the Fort William Powwow on Mt. McKay.
“The walk was amazing — I learned a lot, I overcame a lot,” says Gavin Eveleigh, a Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishnawbek youth who grew up in Geraldton. “You keep on pushing it because we are walking for this cause for everybody. That is why I feel fulfilled right now, because when I wanted to quit, I kept going so that was an amazing experience.”
Eveleigh joined the walk in Geraldton.
“Thank you to the organizers who set this all up and the funding (that enabled) us to eat every day and to sleep in a safe, dry place,” Eveleigh says. “Thank you to the reserves who helped us and encouraged everybody to come and join.”
Eveleigh enjoyed walking with the other youth during the walk.
“It warmed my heart to see (them), because lots of youth don’t really want to do stuff like this,” Eveleigh says. “But the more youth come out, then everybody comes and joins.”
The walkers passed the communities of Longlac, Long Lake #58, Geraldton, Jellicoe, Aniimbigoo Zaaging Anishnawbek, Beardmore, Bingwi Neyashi Anishnawbek, Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishnawbek, Red Rock Indian Band, Nipigon, Red Rock, Hurkett, Dorion, Pearl and Pass Lake on the way to Thunder Bay and Fort William.
“We’re walking not only to heal for ourselves, but to heal our communities that are struggling with alcohol and drug addictions,” says Cecil Mendowegan, one of the organizers from Ginoogaming. “Tomorrow (July 1) is a big day for us — we haven’t finished yet. We still have to do the racism and we’re going to start from the City Hall, up the street to Arthur Street and finish off at Fort William First Nation.”
The City Hall event begins at 10 a.m., with speeches and a ceremony.