A young face peers over his father's shoulder as Northern Quebec Cree Whapmagoostul First Nation youth arrive.

CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

A young face peers over his father's shoulder as Northern Quebec Cree Whapmagoostul First Nation youth arrive.

April 1, 2013
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Walkers who joined a trek begun by members of the Northern Quebec Cree Whapmagoostui First Nation arrived in Ottawa March 25 in support of the Idle No More movement.

Six young people and a guide from the Cree community left Whapmagoostui in January in an effort to raise awareness of the problems faced by aboriginal people.

As they journeyed 1,500 km through harsh winter conditions towards Ottawa, 300 other walkers joined their trek.

The group slept huddled together in tents and trudged through deep slush on their long journey.

Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Shawn Atleo told the gathering the severe cold during part of the trek "made their toques like helmets." As they came further south they encountered slush and snow up to their thighs.

Upon the walkers' arrival in the national capital, they were greeted by a few thousand First Nations members and sympathizers on Parliament Hill at a rally that lasted most of the day.

Atleo called the walkers an inspiration for fostering unity, life and a return to traditional values among all aboriginal peoples in Canada.

"Today the indigenous nations have their group of seven," Atleo told the rally.

"They have lifted us all up."

The walkers shared that there were moments the journey was difficult, when they became homesick and wanted to give up, he said. "But they didn't give up. They kept going."

HEALING JOURNEY

Their walk promoted peace, unity and prosperity, said Atleo. Their stories tell "of a healing journey" and "encouragement by young people to embrace life."

"In the history of this country, you have inscribed your names in the hearts of all indigenous people from coast to coast to coast," said the grand chief.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May asked the House of Commons to applaud the young people and both sides of the aisle obliged with a standing ovation.