Community celebrates walkers’ return
Michel Andrew received a hero’s welcome at a feast in his honour in Sheshatshiu on Apr. 1.
© Jenny McCarthy photo
Community celebrates walkers return
“Giant” is how the 28-year-old community activist is known — once to his friends and family and now to his followers all over.
On March, he completed a walk from Sheshatshiu, Labrador to Uashat, Quebec — a journey he began last February but wasn’t able to complete because of unusually mild weather.
Giant’s shy demeanor has given way to a radiant confidence. He has a steadfast determination to complete his goal, which continues to expand each year. Behind him, offering support, are a group of Innu Cultural Health Walkers who aim to positively influence youth in Innu communities.
“The young people, I just want them to be healthy. I want more people to join in and start their own walks,” Giant said.
Where he once stood back from the limelight Giant has now moved into it in the hopes of spreading his message. On the stage in front of more than 100 people, Giant spoke without hesitation.
He talked of the walk and the struggles the walkers faced.
At the community dinner, Giant was presented with gifts from elders and members of his community for the role he has played in motivating members of a community to better their own circumstances.
From start to finish
Giant began his mission as a personal journey, walking alone the more than 300 kilometres fro Sheshatshiu to Natuashish on the Labrador coast.
It was not Giant's first time in the country. He is known in his community for his hunting and woodsman skills, having spent much of his childhood in the country with his grandparents.
Last year, he started out on the second leg of his journey with 12 friends by his side. That number increased as more people joined along the way.
Giant has become a role model for members of the Innu communities in Labrador and Quebec.
Aside from those walkers that have joined him on his journey, a group of women in Natuashish also began a walk this year for suicide awareness.
Helping the community
Giant began raising money and awareness for diabetes prevention —a health issue that is prevalent in the two Labrador Innu communities.
Two years ago he purchased a portable dialysis machine for the Labrador Health Centre. Since then he has put thousands of dollars into diabetes work.
He promotes health and culture along with diabetes awareness. This year he raised a little over $6,000 and donated part of the money raised to his aunt who is currently in St. John’s for treatment for her severe diabetes.
Giant also donated money to the Dyke family from Sheshatshiu. Their son, Harry, suffered severe burns in a house fire more than a year ago and has been hospitalized ever since. Harry is currently receiving treatment in Toronto. The money will help the family with expenses.
More to come
Giant’s uncle, Alex Andrew, has written a book about his nephew and is currently working on a documentary. It was Alex who helped Giant get started on his trek when he first left his community to walk in 2008.
Alex calls this year’s journey the ‘halfway’ point as the walkers plan on carrying on from Uashat (Sept Isles) to complete the walk to Shefferville, Quebec in September — a further 800 kilometres.
Giant said from the response he’s been getting, he expects to see even more walkers on the next route.