Cape walk­ers win 2018 Y peace medal

Wiarton Echo - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT DUNN

The trans-Canada walk­ers who started their jour­ney at Neyaashi­inig­mi­ing in De­cem­ber are the 2018 YMCA Peace Medal re­cip­i­ents.

They call their walk DaNa­maamin Moseyang Gi­wGanchi­gaazjig Kwewag, or, We Will Walk in Prayer for those Mur­dered Women.

They left Dec. 21 with a plan to walk across the coun­try in a year. But the road took many un­ex­pected turns and now the group is head­ing home for the win­ter, hav­ing made it as far as Ed­mon­ton.

The route has not been as di­rect as they’d planned due to fac­tors in­clud­ing in­clement weather, re­stric­tions when they could walk along the high­way, RV break­downs, and re­quests to visit al­ways wel­com­ing First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties.

Car­lene Keeshig, whose nick­name is the “walk mom,” ac­cepted the award at a cer­e­mony at the Owen Sound Y, which was at­tended by a few dozen peo­ple, in­clud­ing some past re­cip­i­ents.

Keeshig is a Cape band coun­cil­lor and vol­un­teer or­ga­nizer of the walk from home, who walked as far as Colling­wood with them at the start.

The award is pre­sented at Y’s across Canada to cel­e­brate peace in our com­mu­ni­ties and to re­flect on the peace-build­ing work that hap­pens all year both in­side and out­side the YMCA, Peace Medal com­mit­tee mem­ber Brian Minielly said.

Keeshig ac­cepted the award for E Naad Maa Get (Bran­den Em­mer­son), Ni­ibin Ke­gadonce (Tianna Fillo), of Chippe­was of Nawash Unceded First Na­tion, Jacque­line Hines, of Penn­syl­va­nia, and on be­half of her­self, Waabum Meegis Kwe

Em­mer­son and Fillo have been walk­ing since the start. Many have joined and left the walk.

They’re driv­ing back and were ex­pect­ing to be in Wawa by Thurs­day night, run­ning low on fuel and funds for more gas to get home, Em­mer­son said in a video posted to the walk’s Face­book site Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

They plan to fundraise, re­group and recom­mence in the spring, bound for Bri­tish Columbia and Yukon, then east to New­found­land and then home – all on foot, with no de­ter­mined end date, Keeshig said.

“I’m over­whelmed,” Keeshig said af­ter the cer­e­mony. “When we first ini­tially thought about do­ing this walk, we knew it was go­ing to be big. I think each day has been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence about how big it re­ally is.

“Just to be rec­og­nized and hon­oured with this gift is just like, it blows my mind. I don’t even have the words to ex­press all the emo­tions that I’m feel­ing.”

Keeshig said she is very proud of the walk­ers and has seen them “grow into beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ings.”

Ini­tially the plan was to walk across the coun­try in a year and by do so, bring aware­ness to Canada about miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls. But that move­ment has added men to that group be­cause many of them are miss­ing too.

The im­pe­tus for the walk grew from the ex­pe­ri­ence Keeshig and Em­mer­son had dur­ing a wa­ter walk, when Em­mer­son said “This is what I want to do. How can we go about do­ing that, bring that aware­ness to those miss­ing women?”

They trav­elled to the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions in Regina and asked for its mem­bers’ sup­port so all First Na­tions would know the walk was mov­ing for­ward and aware­ness would be raised over this is­sue.

Em­mer­son told The Sun Times a cou­ple of days into the walk it was needed to give voice to those fam­i­lies of miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls who are un­happy with the fed­eral in­quiry es­tab­lished to look into the is­sue.

The jour­ney has been doc­u­mented on the Face­book page, Dana­maamin moseyang gi­wganchi­gaazjig kwewag, with route de­tails, pho­tos and pod­casts and a means of do­nat­ing to fund the walk.

The YMCA here has hon­oured 22 peo­ple and 10 groups whose val­ues have been shared with those which in­spired the Peace Medal: Par­tic­i­pa­tion, Em­pa­thy, Ad­vo­cacy, Com­mu­nity, Em­pow­er­ment. This year’s other Peace Medal nom­i­nees are de­scribed on the Y’s Face­book page.

Peace Medal com­mit­tee mem­ber Michael McLuhan, cit­ing the sub­mis­sion from nom­i­na­tors David McLaren and Rhonda Flana­gan, de­scribed how the Prayer Walk­ers’ jour­ney fit the Y’s Peace Medal cri­te­ria.

They par­tic­i­pate on Face­book, shar­ing videos some­times, and in­tro­duc­ing each woman and child who has died or gone miss­ing, show­cas­ing em­pa­thy by shar­ing their sto­ries and, as Em­mer­son has said, not to solve the sit­u­a­tion but to “bring hope.”

They ad­vo­cate for in­creased sup­port for indige­nous so­lu­tions to end vi­o­lence against Indige­nous women and girls, strength­en­ing com­mu­nity ties along their walk, and by adding new walk­ers, they’re build­ing a cir­cle of em­pow­er­ment.

SCOTT DUNN/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

The 2018 YMCA Peace Medal went to Car­lene Keeshig, fourth from right, who ac­cepted the award on be­half of three oth­ers who are known as Prayer Walk­ers on a trans-Canada walk to hon­our and re­mem­ber miss­ing Abo­rig­i­nal men, women and girls. From the left, Gayle Gra­ham, Y chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, medal com­mit­tee mem­bers Michael McLuhan and Gwynne Pot­ter (pres­i­dent of the Y board of di­rec­tors), Car­lene Keeshig, Rosina Byrne, peace medal com­mit­tee and Y staff, Alex Allen, Y fundrais­ing staff, and medal com­mit­tee mem­ber Brian Minielly, on Thurs­day, Nov. 22, 2018 in Owen Sound.

SCOTT DUNN/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Car­lene Keeshig holds the 2018 YMCA Peace Medal on be­half of the Prayer Walk­ers, who are on a trans-Canada walk in the name of miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous men, women and girls, af­ter the award was pre­sented at the Owen Sound Y on Thurs­day in Owen Sound.

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