Aiming to promote healthy lifestyles and sobriety, dozens of people turned out to march last Thursday from Couchiching First Nation into Fort Frances to mark National Addictions Awareness Week.
Covering a distance of roughly 6,300 footsteps, the march was held to encourage Mino-Bimaadiziiwin (Ojibwe for “Living the Good Life”), explained Heidi Parr, aboriginal healing and wellness co-ordinator for the United Native Friendship Centre here.
“We had a good turnout for last-minute,” she said, referring to the group numbering more than 50 who marched into town.
“We’re just happy people came out,” Parr added.
Starting at Couchiching Treatment and Support Services, participants held banners and signs as they walked along the highway into Fort Frances.
Then they proceeded down Scott Street to Mowat Avenue, finishing up at the UNFC’s “Circle of Life” centre.
“It was a great success, thanks to all the participants,” said Debbie Fairbanks of Couchiching Treatment and Support Services, noting it was the first time the walk had been held.
“It was a job well-done, it was a walk well-done,” she enthused.
Couchiching youth leadership were the ones who made up the signs and slogans for the walk, Fairbanks noted.
“I was proud of all the young people, the elders,” said Albert Calder, a drug and alcohol prevention worker.
“It was nice for youth and elders, and different community organizations, to come together for this,” he remarked.
And many passers-by along the way showed their support by honking and waving, Calder added.
He said everyone was welcome to join the walk—no matter what their personal situation with substance abuse was at the moment, whether they were dealers or users.
“They do want help, and maybe this is a start,” he stressed.
Following the walk, participants wrote positive messages on sheets of paper—messages that will be posted at the UNFC so those struggling with addictions can look up and see encouraging words about staying healthy and on the path to sobriety, said Parr.
Organizers thanked local law enforcement, Cst. Anne McCoy and Brian Major, who walked with them and helped co-ordinate traffic.
Organizers also wished to thank members of the community who showed their support, including Shawn Jourdain, who volunteered to help transport people, Irene Morrisseau, the elder who led the march’s opening prayer, UNFC executive director Sheila McMahon, who walked with them, and Joe Bobczynski, who made the large banner on very short notice.
Snacks at the end of the walk were provided thanks to Aimee Beazley with the UNFC’s Urban Aboriginal Healthy Living Program, said Parr.
In conjunction with National Addictions Awareness Week, a “Recovery Day” also was organized on Saturday at the Couchiching multi-use building which featured recovery speakers, info booths, youth panels, a potluck dinner, and karaoke.