Epic journey of Cree youth charted in new documentary

The Journey of Nishiyuu, a documentary film about the Cree youth who completed an epic walk to Ottawa, premieres tonight in Whapmagoostui, where the 1500 km trekbegan a year ago.
David Kawapit, 18, is one of the youth that walked from Whapmagoostui to Ottawa last year. The Journey of Nishiyuu premieres tonight. (CBC)

Over a year ago today, six young men and their guide set out on snowshoes in temperatures reaching minus 50, walking to Ottawa in support of the Idle No More movement.

When they reached the capital on March 25, 2013, they were several hundred strong.

Tonight a documentary film called The Journey of Nishiyuu premieres in Whapmagoostui, where the 1500 km walk began.

Whapmagoostui Youth Chief Ben Masty shot and edited the film, which is produced by the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay.

"This is not a political movie. It's a personal journey with the walkers," says Masty. "I purposely left out the political dealings behind why they walked."

"It was more to document what they went through and what it's like to walk as our ancestors used to do. I wanted to show the people in the community that this was an important event in the history of our Cree culture."

As the walkers passed through Cree, Anishnabeg and non-aboriginal communities, word spread and soon the journey had a following of more than 30-thousand on Facebook.

"With this walk, they [the youth] want to demonstrate that we still hold it and want to preserve the elder even said, 'you guys are going all the way to Ottawa. In my lifetime I have never walked such a distance in a short amount of time.'" 

"So this is something that's really important, that needs to be preserved as well, that the youth are still trying to hold on to our traditions and customs as Cree people."

The film will be shown at 7 p.m. tonight in Whapmagoostui, following a community feast. Masty says he's hoping the film will eventually be shared with all the other Quebec Cree communities, and perhaps entered into film festivals as well.