Community shares its healing spirit

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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An isolated First Nations community from northern Manitoba is sharing its healing spirit across Western Canada this month, during a journey to Kitimat, B.C.

Colomb Cree Nation of Pukatawagan’s top runners are seen taking a break at the Mary Nisbet Campgrounds north of Prince Albert. From left is Avory Patrick Daniels, Stuart Bighetty, and Courtney Dumas. 

More than 50 members of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation of Pukatawagan were at the Mary Nisbet Campgrounds north of Prince Albert on Monday morning, after spending their third night in an approximately two-week healing journey.

It was a nice contrast from the group’s previous night at the Red Earth Cree Nation near Nipawin, where there were “big and juicy” mosquitoes clouding them.

“We left some blood relatives back there!” Lloyd Daniels said with a laugh.

Daniels is one of the healing journey’s key organizers, and is a man with a clear goal of bettering the community he lives in.

“We all want to get well, here,” he said. “We want to work together because we have to go home together and live with that.”

The key, he said, is replacing life’s negatives with the positives.

“We always talk about the negatives that affect us, and we have a lot of negatives in not only Pukatawagan, but all other First Nations communities have those same effects in terms of the negative aspect and then the positive aspect, to find that balance,” Daniels said.

For Isaac Colomb, anger is the No. 1 barrier that needs to be overcome within himself.

“Stupidity — I can’t really explain it, just stupidity. It’s the best I’ve got to say about that,” he said of his frustrations.  

The walk is helping clear his mind, Colomb said, allowing him time to himself to think things over.

“It’s helping,” he said. “I’m trying to keep myself in a low profile, trying not to explode.”

“Anger builds up and it causes a lot of disruptions in the individual and the family,” Daniels said, noting that this anger is the same among all people, though it seems to be more prevalent among First Nations.

During their trip across Western Canada, these issues are being brought to the forefront of discussions and worked out as a community.

We always talk about the negatives that affect us, and we have a lot of negatives in not only Pukatawagan, but all other First Nations communities have those same effects in terms of the negative aspect and then the positive aspect, to find that balance. Lloyd Daniels, of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation of Pukatawagan

Some within the group are further along their healing journey than others, with this month’s walk furthering their efforts and encouraging them to pass on their knowledge to others.

Although the group is mainly made up of youth, a few elders are participating to share their wisdom, including Jane Merasty, who has concerns about the future of her community.

“I’m walking a healing walk for people who are drinking too much and also the kids — they are using drugs and suicide and all that,” the native Cree speaker said.

Although only 16 years of age, Avory Patrick Daniels shares in Merasty’s goal of helping others at the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation find their way. As a champion runner, athletics has resulted in Daniels earning role model status among his peers. 

“I love to see other young guys my age to run and participate in anything like this,” he said. “I’m trying to inspire young kids to run. When they see me run, I hope that one day they can run, too.”

Daniels, along with Shirley Broughton and others in their community, is also hoping to raise awareness about missing and murdered community members.

“There were three missing women ... One was pregnant and one was chopped up in Winnipeg,” Broughton said. “It’s a very healing journey for us, from our heart and from our spirit.”

“I’m trying to leave my brothers behind, who I lost … so I can go and heal myself,” Malcolm Bighetty said. “I’ve been slowly letting them go along the way.”

The Mathias Colomb Cree Nation has an on reserve population of about 2,200. The community is isolated, with a southbound train trip of more than 210 kilometres linking them to Cranberry Portage, near The Pas.

Organizations: Mathias Colomb Cree Nation of Pukatawagan, First Nations, Prince Albert Red Earth

Geographic location: Nipawin, Pukatawagan, Western Canada Winnipeg Cranberry Portage

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