Water Keepers Journey: group on Indigenous canoe trek
A group of women from Wahnapitae First Nations is in the early stages of a 19-day ceremonial, Indigenous canoe trip from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie.
The Water Keepers Journey started at sunrise Sunday morning from Lake Wahnapitae.
The group plans to paddle 458 kilometres to Garden River First Nations, travelling between 20-30 kilometres per day.
"Indigenous peoples in general are just very in touch with the water and the lands and just nature in general, and it's very important for us that we ensure that it remains protected," said Dakota Recollet, spokesperson for the group.
Recollet said the first day on the water was extremely challenging because of the strong wind and choppy water.
The paddlers are heading to the Great Lakes Water Gathering, which will be held in Garden River First Nation between July 14-17.
The water gathering is an Indigenous led coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people collaborating on ways to protect water.
Recollet says water is very sacred in Indigenous culture and the paddlers are acting as protectors of the water.
She welcomes other paddlers to join in along the journey, at any of the check-in points.
"People...from different territories can paddle with them for a few days. [It is] just to keep everyone together and build relationships with our communities along the way." said Recollet. She added it's unifying for communities to join and show support.
Two women - Stephanie Recollet and Josie Langelier - will canoe the entire trip, while paddlers from other First Nation communities will join them at various points along the trek.
The trip is updated daily on Facebook and people can follow the group's progress: Water Keepers Journey.