Youths on a trek across the country raising awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls stopped into the Gateway to the North on their journey.
The group, Da-namaamin moseying giw-ganchigaazjig kwewag, which translates to We Will Walk in Prayer for those Murdered Women, departed their home community of Nawash, north of Owen Sound, Ont. on December 21, 2017.
On August 18, as they ventured closer to Prince Albert, the walkers had the story of 36-year-old Beatrice Adam on their mind.
Adam and Timothy Charlette were last seen in Prince Albert some four years ago. Adam was found just days after she was reported missing; Charlette has yet to be seen or found since he disappeared on Oct. 7, 2014.
“When we enter into a new province, we make sure that we honour as many women in that province as possible,” said E Naad Maa Getm, or Branden Emmerson, a member of the walking group.
The walkers aim to avoid giving power to those who committed the murders while humanizing those who are missing and murdered, according to E Naad Maa Get.
He said after looking through news articles about those who are missing or murdered, very few focused on what made each woman who she was.
“Often times it's very sensational to be like 'this individual lived a high-risk lifestyle,' sex sells, essentially. They focus on the sexual aspects, or the addiction aspects because that's what gets people's attention,” E Naad Maa Get said. “We're making an effort to show that this person was more than an addiction, more than any type of sexual work.”
He noted not all cases fall into the addiction or sex work categories. Older women have gone missing simply by walking out of their homes and another woman who was honoured worked as her community's health director.
Another woman who was honoured in their trip went missing decades ago.
“Her case was exactly 70 years ago when we walked for it,” E Naad Maa Get said. “Her family still deserves respect, she still deserves respect and recognition.”
Da-namaamin moseying giw-ganchigaazjig kwewag aims to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls across the country with their walk.
According to E Naad Maa Get, they've encountered people who aren't apathetic to the missing and murdered situation, they “live a different lifestyle,” where the issue may not seem so close to home.
“Instead of chastising, or scolding, we attempt to make it more personal for individuals, so they can see their own family in that situation and reach out to that empathetic nature that's in all of us,” he said.
Life on the road
The journey for E Naad Maa Get and Niibin, or Tianna Fillo, his walking partner, has not been an easy one.
Aside from going through numerous pairs of shoes, a variety of issues have arisen along the way.
Originally, the plan was to start on Canada's east coast, however seasonal timing made that impossible. With little advance research, the group departed toward western Canada around Lake Superior.
Thunder Bay was particularly difficult for the walkers. In a city which has been plagued by racial tensions, they were however, able to find balance between the positive and negative experiences.
The walkers were given a 12-year-old's birthday money as a donation at a home they were welcomed into in Thunder Bay.
“We have positive experiences like that, where we seeing the use and the effect of good actions, and them actually walking that path has been absolutely amazing,” E Naad Maa Get said.
Smoke from wildfires burning across the country and issues with a cranky Winnebago have slowed them down some as well.
“[The repair list] just keeps going and going, but the good thing is, it's teaching me to be a mechanic and by the time this is all done I can open up my own RV repair shop,” he said with a smile.
The Winnebago now operates off of a generator which the walkers picked up in Prince Albert, due to electrical issues in the motorhome.
Along the way, E Naad Maa Get said the journey has taught him to go-with-the-flow, so to speak. Where he used to panic because things weren't going to plan, he now just lets things happen as they do; it was a lesson he learned from his elders at home.
Da-namaamin moseying giw-ganchigaazjig kwewag also had the opportunity to meet with commissioners of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, and will be walking with Michèle Audette at the beginning of September, when they plan to enter into Alberta.
After trekking through Wild Rose Country, the walkers will head into the North West Territories, before crossing back into Alberta and then West into British Columbia. If they can do it, the plan for now according to E Naad Maa Get, is to make it to Yukon by October.
The walkers will depart from the Gateway to the North on Aug. 29 along highway 3 before heading north up highway 55.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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