By Marci Becking
NIPISSING FIRST NATION – Walkers who are bringing awareness to the murdered and missing indigenous women epidemic in Canada, left Winnipeg on September 19 with $30 and a shopping cart.
“There were six walkers in the beginning,” says Chris Swan, spokesperson for the group Aboriginal Youth Speaking Out. “Some people couldn’t handle carrying their backpacks so we used a shopping cart. Our tent caved in from snow somewhere between Wawa and the Soo.”
The two walkers who remain – Swan and Mel Azevedo – now have Elder John Bobiwash to be their vehicle escort to Ottawa. They hope to be in Ottawa for the 2nd Community Conversation about the Walking with Our Sisters memorial exhibition at Pressed on December 10.
First Nations along Hwy 17 from Sault Ste. Marie to North Bay have helped the pair along their journey.
“We’ve brought our message to the First Nations about the need for healthy and drug-free communities, how we need to break the cycle of violence in our families,” says Swan. “Our kids can hear the fighting through the walls and that’s how they are learning.”
Swan says that having a strong identity and a connection to the culture is what will heal our communities.
Aboriginal Youth Speaking Out grew out of the very large protest that took place at the Winnipeg Forks on the Alexander Docks after the body of Tina Fontaine was pulled out of the Red River.
They want to put political pressure on for an inquiry – rather than a round table – to address the over thousand murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.
Swan’s grandmother was murdered in 1971 in Eriksdale, Manitoba and it still has yet to be solved.
“My grandfather was also shot four times,” says Swan. “Their children were taken in the Sixties Scoop – one of my uncles was sold to people in the U.S. He has since been located, but died of AIDS. One of their son’s was also killed in the north end of Winnipeg in 1989.”
Along with sharing his personal reasons for the journey, Swan says that he also wants to educate the world on the injustices of what’s happening to aboriginal people in Canada.
The Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity manager Jason Restoule arranged for two-night’s stay at the Comfort Inn in North Bay, courtesy of Westmont Hospitality Group.
Cash donations were made by Union of Ontario Indians staff, the UOI’s FASD program provided shirts, gift cards, traditional medicines and feast bags to the group, while the lands department donated toques and bags. The Eagle’s Nest gas bar on Hwy 17 West also donated a tank of gas.
To find out where the walkers are now, check out the Aboriginal Youth Speaking out Facebook group.