Omushkegowuk Walkers reach Ottawa, call for treaty awareness
Group of 13 from Northern Ontario want to raise awareness about First Nations treaty rights
After almost two months of walking, a group of Cree people from Northern Ontario will hold a rally on Parliament Hill today to continue raising awareness about First Nations treaty rights.
The Omushkegowuk Walkers left Attawapiskat on Jan. 4 to walk more than 1,700 kilometres. They arrived in Ottawa on Sunday.
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The group, organized in part by Danny Metatawabin, grew to 18 people during the walk.
“The elders are the ones who have delegated us, directed us to send a strong message to Canada and all provinces that we need to have a dialogue, we need to engage all First Nations communities,” he said on Sunday.
“We need to engage the grassroots of people to talk about treaties, because they're not being honoured, and that's why there's a sense of frustration.”
'Lifted my spirit'
Walkers said issues such as poverty, poor housing and high suicide rates in many First Nations have led to their push for federal and provincial governments to uphold treaties and increase investments.
Gordon Hookimaw said they’ve been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received.
“I didn't realize how important it was for other people across Canada, and the words I got really lifted my spirit more,” he said.
“I'm sad about it. I'm happy about it. I'm happy I get to go home. But at the same, now knowing it's close, I feel like I want to go further.”
“It's coming towards closure now,” said walker Jean Sutherland.
“We're going our own ways, and it's kind of difficult in a way because you've grown closer to people.”
A similar walk from Whapmagoostui, Que., to Ottawa started with seven people in January 2013 and ended with almost 400 walkers when it reached Parliament Hill at the end of March.