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By Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

There is only a little over a month to go before more than 50 people spanning seven First Nations will embark on an epic 4,000-KM, 12-stop show of solidarity and strength.

The snowmobile expedition, which runs from February 16 to March 4, aims to honour residential school children and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The journey will begin in the Innu community of Uashat-Manutenam, more than 900 KM northeast of Kahnawake, and finish in Manawan, the community of Joyce Echaquan.

“We’re going to visit (these communities) with our snowmobiles in the winter like our ancestors did with the snowshoes or the dogs,” said Peggie Jérôme, an Anishinaabe participant who is also involved in organizing.

Fire keepers in Uashat-Manutenam and Manawan will keep fires burning for the whole duration of the expedition, which will take participants all over Quebec.

Meanwhile, participants will carry cinder from community to community, with plans to start a sacred fire in each one.

“We’re going to be welcome,” said Jérôme. Communities they visit will provide necessities such as food and gas. The participants will share in feasts and other activities with their hosts.

It is important that First Nations work together, said Jérôme.

“We have the same issues, we have the same paths of the story that we’ve been through for generations and generations,” she said. “We have the same vision of life.”

The expedition is not only an act of solidarity, however. It is also a complex undertaking that has required a lot of preparation.

The participants will carry communication tools, survival kits, winter camping kits, food, water, and gas.

“I think we have to be well-prepared physically, mentally, and even our equipment. It’s going to be very challenging, and we’re going to need support from our people,” said Jérôme.

She’s not worried, however. “I’m a winter woman also,” she said.

Jérôme is not the only one ready for the adventure.

“I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for the First Nations Expedition,” said Isabelle Brisebois, who is Kanien’kehá:ka and Algonquin.

Last year, Brisebois participated in a nearly 500-KM canoe expedition that also supported First Nations causes.

For the First Nations Expedition, she has trained in remote first aid to help keep others safe on the journey.

“It is by wanting to support the causes that are close to my heart that I will embark on this incredible expedition, which will undoubtedly be a whole life experience - physical, spiritual, and emotional,” she said.

The expedition will be followed by TVA Sports for a documentary that will be broadcast on the channel.

gmbankuti@gmail.com

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