Neenanew Oshkapewisak - "The Helpers" Walk from Cochrane to Ottawa

We are, all of us, the HELPERS

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to the people of Canada regarding the impact of Residential Schools on native culture and life. This apology set into motion an avenue by which survivors of the Residential Schools could access compensation. These included a Common Experience Payment (C.E.P.), an Independent Assessment Process (I.A.P.) and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It has since been documented that the Government of Canada will not give full recognition to the genocidal extinguishing of the “human fire within”. It has also been further recognized that a human entity is capable of setting into motion a process to “kill the Indian in the child”! But the government does not fully involve itself in the recognition of the plight of Residential School Survivors. It ignores the pleas of the affected people as well as the efforts of others striving to help. Families seeking missing aboriginal women, Children’s Aid Societies and other groups seeking justice for native people are simply not listened to. We, all of us, are THE HELPERS!

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Today, as survivors who now are parents and grandparents, we speak of the overwhelming state that we find ourselves in. Not prepared for these roles as a result of being torn away from our culture and ways. Not being schooled in traditional ways by our role models – our parents and grandparents. Instead, we find ourselves de-humanized, de-moralized and de-spiritualized. Now, our children and grandchildren are reaching out to these affected human beings. We, all of us, are helpers! The women who join our walk now must take care of everyone and everything! We must all walk together.

I speak, along with my partner, as an elder who is grasping the mentoring of the old ways and moving forward with the present generation who are Oskapawishak –helpers. They, too, are mentored and they, too, carry their role and responsibility for the next generations. They, and we, cannot allow this to happen again. Create the fire within once again and help the home fires!

Since 2011, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has scheduled National events throughout Canada for survivors of Indian Residential Schools (I.R.S.) to attend and give testimonials on their experiences with I.R.S. The Oskapawishak, known as “The Truth and Reconciliation Walkers”, have walked to two of these national events to create awareness. The first event was in Winnipeg, Manitoba and the second was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. These walks brought to light the impact of the Indian Residential Schools issues.

On May 31, 2015, this chapter of our journey ends in Ottawa, our nation’s capitol. On April 8, we the Oskapewisk (The Helpers) will set out to walk from Cochrane, Ontario to witness this closure. With the journey nearing its end, we wish to thank our Creator and our ancestors who have been journeying with us. Meegwetch!

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