Second annual Walk for Freedom brings message of hope

WALKING FOR FREEDOM FROM ADDICTION—Marchers in the Walk for Freedom brought a message of hope along with the mission of awareness as they processed from the water tower on Rabbit Island Hill down through the community of the Village of Wiikwemkoongsing. See story on Page 15. photo by Michael Erskine

WIIKWEMKOONG—The second annual Rainbow Lodge Walk for Freedom brought a message of hope and healing for those struggling with addictions in the leadup to National Addictions Awareness Week.

Started last year by Karen Shawanda, the walk is intended to raise awareness in Wiikemkoong Unceded Territory communities that there is hope for addiction, explained this year’s walk co-organizer Terry Beaudry. “It is to help our community members be aware that there are things they can do, there’s people that are here to help them and support them,” said Ms. Beaudry. “Some of the walkers we had last year were some elders, some grandparents, and the people who couldn’t walk were following behind in a car.”

Preparation for the Walk for Freedom began earlier in the week. “On Wednesday we made banners to carry for our walk. We have themed it ‘Walking for Freedom.’ So under that sign, under those words, somebody had put a type of a chain; they drew a chain on it and breaking the chains. Because addiction is like a bondage.”

Those chains of addiction are not just drugs either. In this day of distraction there are many forms that addiction can take. “It’s not just drug and alcohol addiction, there’s so many out there today inducing internet, gaming, gambling, sex, and food and all kinds,” said Ms. Beaudry. “The Walk for Freedom is to address addiction in general, but primarily drugs and alcohol because that’s one of the issues we want to try to raise awareness among our young people.”

The walk began on Sunday, November 25 at 1 pm, setting out from the water tower, marching from Rabbit Island Hill down to Wiky Way, stopping for a break in front of Daystar then continued on to the band office before continuing ending at Rainbow Lodge.

Organizers this year included Sister Beaudry, Ms. Shawana and Roseanne Beaudry.

“I really do personally believe in health and well-being of people. It is the total well-being of people, emotional, spiritual, mental and physical,” said Ms. Beaudry. “My hope and my belief is to help all of us get well. When one of us is not well, all of us are a little bit not well. So we as a community, when one or two or three or more members of our community are sick, we are all a little bit sick. I would really like to see our young people being healthy and living happy life. A good life. I belong to a religious organization, a congregation of women called Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood and my own values and beliefs are part of that. But they’re in line with our cultural teachings as well. Our values are very much the same. For me to want to see the wellness of people is kind of my life.”

The walkers, around 50 in number, were warmed up with soup and scones once they reached Rainbow Lodge.

The Walk for Freedom provided an opportunity to not only raise awareness of the issue of addictions but also provided concerned community members something proactive and positive to voice their concerns and support. “It is raising awareness and putting a name to addiction,” said Ms. Beaudry, “not just saying ‘okay,’ like, pushing it under the rug. We are aware that it is a problem, but it’s a problem in many places. We’re here in our community and that’s one of the ways we’re trying to address this. I think part of it is community spirit, community support as we walk, we talk. We laugh and perhaps some people might share, cry a bit together, I don’t think that will happen but there will be a lot of talking and sharing. And knowing who is in support of wellness, that we’re all together in this—and so a sense of a common bond somehow.”

Last year’s walk was relatively quiet, but this year the Walk for Freedom was much less of a sombre affair and took place with music piped from an accompanying vehicle and plenty of laughter and good cheer, more in keeping with a message of hope.