POLITICS

Attawapiskat First Nation walkers trek to Ottawa with message

01/06/2014 04:35 EST | Updated 03/08/2014 05:59 EST
Three walkers left Attawapiskat First Nation on Jan. 4 with the goal of trekking to Ottawa with a message for the government and their chiefs.

Community members gathered on the bank of the Attawapiskat River, in the freezing cold, to send off Danny Metatawabin, Brian Okimaw and Paul Mettina.

According to a statement posted by Metatawabin on Facebook, they are walking from the “…traditional territories of the Omushkegowuk (People) to deliver a message to the leaders of both levels of Government and to our respective Chiefs that the time to honour our Treaties is now! The time to address and reconcile Aboriginal issues is now!"

Metatawabin writes, "We are and will continue to be here and we want our rightful place back within this country called Canada.”

Metatawabin was a spokesperson for Chief Theresa Spence during her fast on Victoria Island in Ottawa last winter.

In a phone interview with CBC News, Spence said she supports the walkers.

“I sent an email out to all the chiefs of Mushkegowuk encouraging us to get together and write a letter to the national chief,” she said.

Spence wants the Mushkegowuk Council to ask for a national meeting of chiefs to address the walkers’ concerns. She has requested that the chiefs support the walkers when they pass through their communities.

The Mushkegowuk Council represents eight First Nations in northern Ontario, including Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree, Taykwa Tagamou and Attawapiskat First Nations.

The walkers are supported by helpers carrying supplies on snowmobiles, and on Saturday and Sunday nights they headed back to Attawapiskat for the night.

In Matatawabin’s update on Jan. 5, he wrote: “Tomorrow will be the last time our helpers [from Attawapiskat] will be dropping us off, to begin our journey again. We are hoping that the other member communities will be picking us up from that point forward.”

The walkers are currently 52 kilometres away from Attawapiskat and calling on Kashechewan First Nation for support. They are hoping more walkers will join them, and report that “all is going well, despite the freezing cold weather.”

Last year, a group of young people from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Que., completed a 1,600-kilometre trek to Ottawa, also meant to bring attention to aboriginal issues.