Grassy Narrows Walkers by Kenn Chaplin in A\J

Twenty-two members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation arrive in Toronto after their 1,850 kilometre “Protecting Our Mother” walk. Photo by Kenn Chaplin.

In Heroes, we profiled communities across Canada that were the first to make a splash by making an environmental campaign mainstream. To highlight action being taken against the tar sands, we mentioned the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Tar Sands Healing Walk because of the important work that is being done to fight environmental destruction.

However, Indigenous groups across Turtle Island have been walking for justice since long before 2009, when the Healing Walk started. Here are some important walks that have been led by elders, women and youth to bring attention to concerns of environmental degradation, water issues and indigenous rights.

Grassy Narrows
In 2008, youth from Grassy Narrows First Nation walked 1,850 kilometres from near Kenora, Ontario to Toronto to protest the effects of mercury contamination from logging operations in the 1960s and 70s. While community elders experience the brunt of contamination, youth walked with the message that their entire home ecosystem has been poisoned, and repeated the journey in 2009 and 2012.  Read more about Grassy Narrows.

Clear Water Walk
In February 2013, youth from Jackhead, Fisher River and Peguis First Nations spent four days travelling to the Manitoba legislature as part of the Clear Water Walk, and ended up continuing on from Winnipeg to Ottawa – covered more than 2,100 km in total. Read more about the youths’ concern for their water in Wawatay News Online.

Journey of Nishiyuu
In March 2013, six Cree youth trekked more than 1,600 km from Northern Québec to Ottawa, joined by hundreds from other communities along the way. Spurred by the Idle No More movement, the Journey of Nishiyuu’s purpose was to highlight the unacceptable state of First Nations’ living conditions, the dwindling of Cree culture and traditions and the sacredness of Mother Earth.

Mnidoo Gaaming Bimooseyang Water Walk
During summer 2013, 106 people took part in the Minidoo Gaaming Bimooseyang Georgian Bay Water Walk 2013 to raise awareness about declining water levels. They covered 787 kilometres, visiting sacred places and sharing the region’s long Anishinabe history. 

Idle No More Walk For Future Generations Cold Lake
From October 26th to 28th, 2013, members of the Cold Lake First Nation walked a 100-kilometre loop to protest the non-stop oil spill at the Canadian Natural Resources Limited site. Learn more about the bitumen leak in Heroes, or visit Idle No More to learn about the significance of the walk.

Emily is former A\J web editor and a graduate of Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Emily is an urban homesteader who tries to live as plastic-free, local and organic as possible, and can be intense about it. 

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