Indigenous Canadian Walks 2,500 Miles to Save His People

For 7,500 years, the Innu were semi-nomadic hunters, crossing Nitassinan (north-eastern Canada) in search of the vast herds of caribou that migrate across their land. Since their land was occupied and they were pressurized into settling and hunting was forbidden, rates of diabetes, alcoholism and suicide have soared.

A dream about the crisis led a young Innu man, Michel Andrew (known as ‘Giant’), to start a walk, ‘The Young Innu Cultural Health Walk’, aimed at raising awareness of the diabetes crisis and to reconnect young Innu with nutshimit (‘the country’): the taiga, tundra and rocky barrens that sustained them for millennia.

Several years ago, Giant had a vivid dream. He was visited by an old man who told him, “Get up and help your people.”

In Innu culture, dreams are significant and Giant wondered how he should interpret the old man’s words.

He spoke to his uncle, Nikashant Antane.

“A couple days after his dream, Giant asked me what his grandfather looked like,” Antane said.

Giant had never seen a picture of his grandfather, who died of a heart attack four years before he was born.

“After I showed him the photo I had on my computer, he said, ‘I am convinced it was Grandfather in my dream.’”

Giant began alone in the winter of 2009, leaving his community of Sheshatshiu, on the Newfoundland and Labrador border, with just an axe, toboggan, stove and tent.

During the final stage this winter, 40 other young Innu joined Giant in crossing the frozen interior of sub-arctic Quebec and Labrador together. They ate caribou, partridge and porcupine hunted along the way.

It is the first time they have crossed Nitassinan since being forced into settlements in the 1950s.

Said Giant:

There was zero diabetes among our people before, when our grandparents were living in the country, hunting and eating healthy country foods. Today, only a few families from my community go to nutshimit. They eat the white man’s food – canned food from the store – and drink alcohol.

It hurts me to think about it. I want my walk to show our people that our way of life in the country is a healthy life. Otherwise in another 10 years, what will happen? The whole community could have diabetes. Everybody could be losing limbs.

Giant has walked 2,500 miles (4,000km) and has raised enough money to buy five dialysis units for the hospital in Goose Bay, Labrador. Before that, people who needed dialysis had to go to St. John’s and live there permanently.

Antane has written a book chronicling Giant’s journey called “Giant’s Dream”.

Giant was given his name by brother Charlie.

Watch ‘Being Innu’ (warning, includes animal butchery scene):

  • Find out more about The Young Innu Cultural Health Walk and where to donate at their Facebook group.

Related stories:

Save the Zebra, Black Rhino – or People? (Video)

BC First Nations Unite To Ban Export Of Tar Sands Oil

Justice for Murdered and Missing First Nations Women

Giant (Michel Andrew) picture courtesy Joanna Eede/Survival

93 comments

W. C
W. C1 months ago

Thank you for caring.

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William C
William C1 months ago

Thanks for the information.

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Sue H.
.5 years ago

I wish governments would stop trying to make all people the same and allow different cultures to live the way they want to.

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Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

Good job, but he should also walk those 2,500 miles to boot out the war mongering, global environment destroying, dirty oil peddling and wildlife massacring psychopath Harper along with all Harper's gang of minister thugs. Harper's goal is to finish off anybody that opposes him for his own immoral selfish greed, and Harper's plans definitely include wiping out the native tribes of Canada.

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Alice A.
Alice Anderson5 years ago

Thank you for sharing...very informative.

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Pauline Houzard
Pauline Houzard5 years ago

Another amazing true life story, thanks for sharing.

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Vicki P.
Victoria P5 years ago

Thank-you for the story~♥

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Engele van Zyl
Engele van Zyl5 years ago

Interesting article

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Mit Wes
Mit Wes5 years ago

David, i wonder if anyone noticed that the healthy traditional Innu life included subsisting on caribou?

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Rebecca Smith
Rebecca Smith5 years ago

Thank you for your inspiring trek, Giant. I look forward to hearing and learning more about you and the Innu people's actions at this time.

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