By Paul Seesequasis
Along the way the “Original Seven,”—David Kawapit, 18; Geordie Rupert, 21; Raymond (Bajoo) Kawapit, 20; Stanley George Jr., 17; Travis George, 17; Jordon Masty, 19, and Johnny Abraham, also 19—as the Nishiyuu walkers became known, had picked up roughly 270 more, as well as thousands of supporters worldwide, and captured the imagination and hearts of many.
"I took this walk for healing, [for] the challenges we face,” said David Kapawit, the young man who was inspired to initiate the journey by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s fast in protest of government policies. He spoke to the crowd in Cree. “I am so honored to see you all here in support. This moves me so much."
The simple message of unity and pride of the Cree, Algonquin, Inuit, Mohawk and other youth who undertook the trek resonated far beyond the Native world. The response also revealed that the inspiration behind the Idle No More movement is far from played out.
Notably absent from a greeting crowd of thousands that included Members of Parliament, the country’s highest-ranking First Nations leaders and other notables was Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He was in Toronto, greeting a pair of panda bears from China.
"It says a lot that Stephen Harper isn't here, that he's greeting the pandas,'' Green Party leader Elizabeth May told the Canadian Press. "It says a lot that we need to move heaven and earth to meet First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis with respect.''
Aboriginal leaders were also quick to note the stark contrast between the youths’ welcome and the Prime Minister’s absence.