By Chris Marchand
With every step, they grow stronger and more determined.
Walking to Ottawa in a show of opposition to changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the federal budget, a group of First Nation protestors from Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba passed through Dryden this past week, roughly half way toward their goal of reaching Ottawa — a total distance of 3,426 kilometres.
Calling themselves ‘A Sacred Journey for Future Generations’, Stanley Mission’s Bruce McKenzie says the effort began on March 16 in temperatures of -37 degrees celcius with four members of his community who recently discovered that the Churchill River – upon which their community relies for fishing, trapping and traditional activities — was no longer a federally-protected waterway.
Their ranks have since grown to 11 members along the way and the group is among several First Nations groups currently staging long distance protest walks to the nation’s capital over recent environmental legislation’s effects on Treaty rights.
“There’s a lot that goes on in my mind on the road, “ says McKenzie. “Especially when we see animals. We’re speaking for them too, they don’t have a voice and they’re in the middle of it. We’re doing this for the future generations whose Treaty rights will be gone, our culture will be gone when our river systems are too environmentally damaged for us to come together and practice our traditional ways. It’s pretty important to us to oppose this bill and bring awareness to communities as we go along.”
McKenzie says the group is glad to be back in the relative shelter of the boreal zone after a frigid journey through the prairies in a winter that wouldn’t give up.
Young people make up several members of the group and McKenzie says he’s encouraged to see First Nations youth politicized over the issues facing their future.
“It’s motivating and inspiring,” he said. “The younger generations are rising and they have the courage to walk this earth. They love it and they want to save it.”
You can check in with the group or donate to their cause at their Facebook page under ‘A Sacred Journey For Future Generations’.