By Rick Garrick
FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION—The Spirit Walkers on the 2017 Healing Walk for all people were celebrated with an honour song and dance at the Fort William Pow Wow on July 1.
“It really felt good — it really felt complete,” says former Long Lake #58 Chief Allen Towegishig, one of the Healing Walk organizers. “They honoured us to fulfill our journey. They shook our hands and most of them were saying they followed us all the way through on Facebook and giving us phone calls.”
Towegishig appreciated all of the walkers who completed the last leg of the walk from City Hall in Thunder Bay to Fort William on July 1.
“Today we got over 50, about a hundred,” Towegishig says. “We’re not doing it alone, we’re doing it for everybody.”
The spirit walkers began the 320-kilometre walk in Ginoogaming on June 25.
“I’m overwhelmed by all the support that the young people have shown,” says Cecil Mendowegan, a Healing Walk organizer from Ginoogaming. “That only shows us that a lot of young people want change to live a better life, not only what they are going through in terms of their own healing but for all of our First Nation issues.”
The walkers focused on a different issue each day during the walk: Drugs/Alcohol Addictions; Cancer; Missing Women/Men; Residential School/Day School Survivors/Descendants; Suicide; Land, Water and Air; and Racism.
“I want to give thanks to the Creator and all of our Spirit Helpers who joined us on this walk,” says Ron Kanutski, a walker and Red Rock Indian Band citizen. “And we ask that all of the issues that we walked for, that we take our prayers and find strategies for healing.”
Judy Desmoulin, an organizer from Long Lake #58, says that there was a feeling of pride at the end of the walk.
“But it’s also like feeling kind of sad too because it is over now,” Desmoulin says. “It was a really good week of people getting to know each other in an intimate way and just supporting each other through all of the struggles throughout the week.”
Desmoulin says there was plenty of support from people who passed by on the highway.
“We got a lot of donations with people just dropping the money in the walkers hands,” Desmoulin says. “And lots of honks on the highway and thumbs up.”
Gavin Eveleigh, a Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishnaabek youth who grew up in Geraldton, says it was a great walk.
“Thank you to everybody who was there and supported each other, who always encouraged each other to push further and further,” Eveleigh says. “I thank you for the new friends I made, the new friends I will always have now.”
Eveleigh says the Honour Song and dance was emotional for him.
“It really felt like it meant something after all that pain, all those blisters on the feet and all of the hurt ankles,” Eveleigh says. “It actually felt like it meant something because we actually did it for everyone, we did it for all the people.”
Long Lake #58 Chief Veronica Waboose enjoyed participating in the special walk across the Nipigon River Bridge on June 29.
“It was good,” Waboose says. “It was really [good] to watch my people going through the walk and doing it for all the people in the community. When you see your people going through the hardships, it just seems like they want our community to heal.”