By Rick Garrick
FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION—Former Long Lake #58 Chief Allen Towegishig is looking forward to the upcoming Healing Walk for all peoples from Ginoogaming’s Turtle Lodge Memorial to Fort William’s Pow Wow grounds.
“The turtle is a healing turtle,” says Towegishig, who is one of the coordinators for the walk. “The turtle is going to be our guide. We’re walking for healing ourselves, for healing of the Nation and healing of our land and water.”
Towegishig says the walk will focus on a different issue each day, including Drugs and Alcohol Addictions; Cancer; Missing Women and Men; Residential School/Day School Survivors/Descendants; Suicide; Land, Water and Air; and Racism.
“The first day we might walk for missing women, the next day we’re going to get another walk for cancer,” Towegishig says. “Every day we will be walking for something. On the last day when we get to Thunder Bay, we are going to walk on racism. We’re going to pray on that too.”
The walkers plan to begin the 320-kilometre walk on June 25 and finish on July 1 during the Fort William Pow Wow.
“I think we are going to get about 12 people to walk, starting from Longlac,” Towegishig says. “We might do a relay, we don’t know. We might get some people to do 10 kilometres.”
Towegishig says community members along the route are planning to provide meals for the walkers.
Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) is also planning a ceremony for the walkers at Trout Creek.“They’re going to provide supper and do a ceremony there,” Towegishig says. “And as we get to Nipigon, [the Red Rock Indian Band] is going to provide supper. And we are going to invite people to come and walk on the new bridge. We’re going to invite the mayor and anybody who wants to join to walk across with us.”
Towegishig says the planners have received a good response from community members in the area, including Aroland, BZA, Nipigon and Beardmore.
“I just had a meeting with [BZA] yesterday,” Towegishig says. “The four workers there are all excited. They say they are going to join us for a little ways when we go by.”
Towegishig says the daily routine during the walk includes a group session with a prayer and smudge in the morning.
“I’m the driver — I carry the water,” notes Towegishig. “If someone gets a little tired, I just tell them to get on [the vehicle for a rest]. And then they start walking again.”
Towegishig says he has participated in healing walks before, including the 10-day, 489-kilometre Sacred Walk he and a group of walkers completed last year from Thunder Bay to Kenora, which is located near the Manitoba border along the Trans-Canada Highway.
“We’ve done it before, so that is why we know what to do,” Towegishig says, noting that Fred Thomas, the coordinator of last year’s Sacred Walk, will be joining this year’s walk. “He’s from Lac Seul and he’s going to come and join us from Longlac.”
Towegishig says Fort William community members are planning to join the walk on the last day. The route through Thunder Bay will begin on Hodder Avenue and proceed to City Hall and then through Fort William and up to Mount McKay.