The Meenwach'heewouwan Maskinnou (Healing Path) Walkers were preparing to leave Moose Factory, Ont., Saturday on a journey by snowshoe that will take them to Chisasibi, Que., over the course of a week.
The first leg of their trek is to Waskaganish, with stops in Eastmain and Wemindji before arriving home in Chisasibi later this month.
"It's been a hard road in trying to get this walk under way," said organizer Gertie Neacappo.
One of the walkers, Chisasibi resident Christine Chewanish, said the purpose of Meenwach'heewouwan Maskinnou is to confront the historical traumas her community has faced.
The reason you walk
"I had some personal experiences of abuses in my life, where I wanted it to do something about it, so I decided to do a snowshoe walk to bring awareness about the hurting that not only affects my family, but my home community, and Nation," she said.
"My friend and I would talk about our experiences where we saw similarities in what happened to us in our lives, where we became survivors of trauma that was inflicted by others. And that bothered me for the longest time, but I also knew that our communities were going through many kinds of abuses within and hurting," she said.
"[It's] a cycle that needs to be broken."
A winter first
Chewanish said she has the support of her community behind her. And she won't be walking alone. She's walking with two close friends, Jaycie Moar and Joanne Matowaham.
They'll also be accompanied by Redfern Mianscum of Oujebougoumou, along with his daughter, Afeni Gail.
"I never went on a winter journey before, so I am taking this chance to support my sister Christine," Mianscum said, "to spread the word that we need to come together and realize what is happening within our communities and Nation, where the hurting and abuses need to be stopped."
A team of volunteers will travel ahead to each community along the way to ensure the walkers have food and supplies. They'll also be camping at cabins and hunting camps dotted along the coast of James Bay.
Chewanish and her companions face a long trek, but she said she's excited to begin the journey. "I know that it won't be easy, but I feel confident and I am eager to get going," she said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the time the walkers were leaving and how long their trip would take.Feb 08, 2016 2:23 PM CT