Indigenous Arts & Stories - The Walk

The Walk

2013 - Writing Winner

I laugh at that! “So the first step for change begins with the journey of a thousand miles, eh?” He shrugs again. “Why not? How many times have you seen a person changed by a journey, change their village? What’s to stop seven people traveling to the capital inspiring a nation?” With that, Mukwa lumbers away from the shoreline leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Read Robert McCue's The Walk

Robert McCue

Tottenham, ON
Chippewas of Georgina Island
Age 16

Author's Statement

My short story originally was intended for a school assignment. However, as I progressed with my original idea I found it more and more difficult to keep the words flowing without it becoming something that would bore someone to tears. As I sat around with a bad case of writer’s block, just not wanting to do the project in general, my mom absentmindedly asked, “I wonder how the walkers are doing?” This would be the first time I had heard of them and naturally I was interested in it, but after I watched the video my mom showed me I quickly lost interest and became absorbed, once again, in my assignment.

As my deadline loomed closer, the seven Cree walking to Ottawa came to my mind again and I began to picture and wonder what it was like for them on their journey. I began to delve a little deeper into the story and eventually found the inspiration for the two main characters of my story. David Kawapit said that he had a dream of a bear and a wolf walking down the traditional routes his ancestors used and with that dream came the knowledge of the journey he would make. I thought that instead of telling the story from any of the Cree walkers’ perspective, since they have voices of their own to tell it, I would tell it from the two spirits who brought David the idea – Mukwa and Maheengun.

As I was writing the story I was reminded of how quickly the news faded from my mind and how fast Idle No More has dwindled down in the mainstream media, and so I voice my concern through the characters. I really hope that Nishiyuu – the Journey of the People, has not been in vain; that it will inspire our people to fix problems that have been ignored for too long, but seeing how the Prime Minister thinks pandas are more important than our concerns, I doubt it.


The Walk

The winter wind bites through their coats as they make their way across the frozen lake; it wails and cries at them to turn back as it sends snow to blind and sting exposed flesh. The seven Cree walkers that have left Whapmagoostui march on; heedless of the hostilities that nature torments them with. As I watch from the shadows of the tree line I try to think of what could spur such an act.  I have heard the people talk about a movement called “Idle No More”, which these youths may have taken a little too literally. It could simply be the call to adventure or the allure of being an agent of change; whatever the reason, it has led them out back into the wilderness along traditional paths that have long since become obsolete.

There’s a rustling of branches as Mukwa staggers and collapses beside me. “Why… must… you… insist… on that pace!” he gasps between gulps of air, his heavy sides heaving with every breath.  “Why, to help you lose weight of course,” I retort as I watch him slowly lumber up to a sitting position.  “Very funny, you useless dog!  Remind me again why we can’t just walk with the group; I thought you liked being in a group better than the lone wolf thing?”  I fix him with a level look, “Because that is not our purpose here, Mukwa.  I know winter isn’t the best time for you, but you should be able to remember that instruction from the Gigitowin.”

He sighs tiredly as he gets up to look over the lake; his coat caked in snow so the brown fur of the grizzly resembles more of a polar bear.  “Do you think they’ll make it the whole way?” he asks as he peers at the silhouettes of the walkers. “ I have no reason to see why not; it’s only one thousands kilometers to Ottawa from their village and they can rest in any villages they happen to come across.”

The walkers have reached the far side of the lake now and into the haven of the trees; the wind seems to give one last frustrated howl before it dies down to a gentle breeze. I start off at a lazy trot.  “We should continue,” I call back to Mukwa who growls threats in response.  I pick up my speed to a near sprint and we begin our scouting run. We run around the walkers keeping out of their sight and casting a watchful eye out for any threats that might harm the group.  The world does not hold many of the dangers it once did; people don’t go to war against neighboring villages and the animals have learned long ago to avoid humans if they can, but there are still some threats that worry the elders so we watch and we listen to ensure the walkers’ safety and to ease the minds of the elders.

The blanket of clouds lifts to reveal that the day is almost done.  The walkers choose to set up their camp on the shore of another lake that they had come across; they have a perfect view of the setting sun which sets the clouds on fire with its brilliance and causes the snow to sparkle with different hues of the orange and pink light that has been painted across the surface of the lake.  To the seven young Cree it would no doubt be all the more beautiful after the blizzard they had just walked through.

As night comes we begin to see the faint glow from the fires at the camp, providing the only light around save for the light of moon and stars.  Then, suddenly the northern lights explode into the sky creating a dazzling show for the walkers but a feeling of unease for us.  I turn to Mukwa, “What do you think could make them that excited?” He shrugs his large shoulders but keeps on looking at the aurora. “That kid David Kawapit’s dream might have inspired more than just 6 others.  Who knows, maybe we’ll see hundreds join them by the end and it’ll be the first step to reunifying a shattered people.”  I laugh at that!  “So the first step for change begins with the journey of a thousand miles, eh?”  He shrugs again.  “Why not?  How many times have you seen a person changed by a journey, change their village? What’s to stop seven people traveling to the capital inspiring a nation?”  With that, Mukwa lumbers away from the shoreline leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I look up toward the lights then out across the lake toward the resting walkers; I’m certain that they will reach their destination, what I’m interested in is how their journey will change them and will it change or inspire a nation as Mukwa thinks. I look back up towards the lights.  “What do you have in store for these people?”  I get up and shake the snow off my fur, take one last glance at the camp for the night and follow Mukwa’s large paw prints back into the forest.

David Kawapit and his companions walked a 1,600 kilometer journey from their home in Whapmagoostui, Quebec to Parliament Hill in Ottawa; the journey took them three months to complete and inspired many others to join them in their protest of current aboriginal issues. The group of Cree youths had intended on speaking with the Prime Minister once they reached their destination, but they learned that he was away on import business at the Toronto Zoo. The seven Cree walkers ended up leading a group of walkers nearing 400 to the steps of Parliament and may have reignited the Idle No More movement.