Northern Saskatchewan politician Buckley Belanger is setting out on a mission this week to honour the province's first aboriginal MLA.
Belanger, the New Democrat member of the legislature for Athabasca, is raising money to help build a graveside memorial for Lawrence Riel Yew, who represented the Cumberland constituency from 1982 to 1986 and died in 1998.
Born in Beauval in 1942, Yew was a trapper and fisherman who later served as administrator in Pinehouse and was actively involved in the fishermen's co-operative in Canoe Lake.
Yew also served on the Northern Wood Producers' Board and was an executive assistant to the minister of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan. He served for six years as a northern municipal councilor before entering provincial politics.
Belanger said when he was growing up, Yew was one of a handful of politicians actively fighting for northern aboriginal people.
Belanger plans to walk 40 kilometres through northern Saskatchewan — from Beauval to the cemetery at Canoe Lake First Nation. He hopes to raise $2,000 to $3,000, mainly by soliciting donations from mining companies and from people in communities where Yew lived.
"From my perspective, recognizing Lawrence and putting a proper, fitting monument where he's buried is really important to the family, and certainly is to me, and I think it would be for the area as well," Belanger said.
Coming along on the trip is Canoe Lake band councilor Maurice Iron, who says Yew taught him everything he knows about politics.
"This is my seventh term on the reserve," Iron said. "That's why I went to him for advice and stuff. He understood politics, eh?"
Belanger and Iron were scheduled to start the two-day trip Wednesday morning.