Photo of Janet Day on her Walk Uniting our Families on April 11. Photo courtesy of: Janet Day, Facebook.

By Kelly Anne Smith

SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION—It was a long way home after sacrificing years away to reunite her own family.

Janet Day’s brother lost his daughter to the child welfare system. Day then left her home territory to go to Alberta to gain kinship custody of her niece. When her niece was finally in her care, Day’s fight changed to help the little girl’s father gain back custody.

With father and daughter together again, Day decided on a high-profile walk to bring awareness to the unfair policies faced by Indigenous families. Day asks important, thought-provoking questions such as: “What can we do to keep our children in our own communities? What can we as a community do to help each other to build and bridge alliances from nation to nation to keep our children together?”

Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, based in Edmonton, stands behind Janet Day’s efforts to raise awareness of the barriers facing families who are trying to get their children back. When Day was granted full custody of her niece, Bent Arrow presented her with a cloth during a naming ceremony.

A year later, when child care services refused her to return to her homeland in Serpent River, she knew what to do with the cloth. She would carry it on her sacred walk home.

Deputy Executive Director Patti Brady commends Days’ efforts.

“We support Janet in all the good work she has poured into her family and because of her relentless determination, love and support to her family she has seen positive results,” wrote Brady.

Before her walk, Janet wrote a letter stating she wanted to be a good helper and be good to her family and friends. She asks that others should ask questions of our communities of what is needed to create healthy alliances to build each other up.

“To empower, encourage, embrace and ignite the flame of telling our story, and to work with each other to break the cycle and be proud of our Anishinabek ways,” expressed Day. “We have 7 Grandmother and Grandfather Teachings and we need each other to uphold to the stronghold.”

On March 31, Day started out from Edmonton with walkers from The Alberta Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief. The organization sent out social media posts to raise awareness for Janet as she crossed through the Prairie Provinces.

“To our friends out in Saskatchewan- keep an eye out on the highway for #JanetDay. She is walking from Alberta to Ontario to pray for the unification of children in care with their families!” wrote the organization.

Walking through Saskatchewan, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) supported an appreciative Janet by providing a hotel room for warm, dry shelter.

Winnipeg was a whirlwind of activity as she met with Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Grand Chief Derrick Nipinak, Cora Morgan and the Grandmothers.

Day offered the needed change.

“If First Nations were given back control of child welfare, it would fix itself,” stated Day. “The apprehensions are continuing like the Residential Schools. Nothing has changed. It is difficult to control sovereignty when governed by [The Indian Act].”

Initially, Day planned to walk to Thunder Mountain in Ontario, a sacred place for ceremony for her people. But the logging road to access Thunder Mountain has been washed out.

She will take part in the Sundance Ceremony to finish the walk, closer to home.

Day takes it in stride.

“We always have to reroute and find another solution,” noted Day.

Day will abstain from food for four days for a fast during the Sundance. Her journey of almost 3000 kilometers will be done.

Janet Day helped her brother’s family – her family – heal and be together again. Now she brings awareness and hope to those that continue to struggle to reunite their families.

She hopes to be in her own territory by the middle of May.

To help support her walk expenses and continuing awareness campaign, write Janet at janetday_2004@hotmail.com

Follow Uniting Our Families on Facebook.