68 days and 1,600 kilometers after leaving Whapmagoostui in northern James Bay, the original seven Nishiyuu Walkers arrived in Ottawa. They were greeted by thousands and joined by nearly 270 other walkers, mostly youth, from Native and non-Native communities along the way. Their simple message of healing and unity struck a chord that played well on social media and spread quickly.
It was a testament to the power of the new moccasin telegraph, Twitter and Facebook, but it also revealed how completely out of touch mainstream media is with Indigenous issues. There was scant coverage, certainly Cree Radio CBC and then Radio Canada (French) were there almost from the beginning. But for weeks, and during the most arduous part of the journey, when temperatures dipped to -50 celsius, and through blowing snow and across open terrain, there was not a whisper from mainstream media.
It was not for lack of being informed. Press releases were sent out. Numerous followers send links to outlets such as The Globe and Mail, The National Post, CBC National, CTV, Global, virtually every major outlet. And, as the original seven trekked on, through trying conditions when their walk would have captivated so many, there was not a word from these outlets.
Audits, illegal blockades, community dysfunction or addictions are often covered. They are, in fact, the norm. Is it that, a ‘feel good’ story about Native youth, who are not abusing themselves but assuming an epic task with determination, is so far from the ‘negative-type’ so often portrayed that media outlets couldn’t be bothered?
Yes, toward the end, when The Journey of Nishiyuu had grown large enough it was hard to be ignore, there was more coverage, from The Globe and Mail, CTV, Global and CBC, to name a few. Nothing but an online only, brief excerpt from The National Post, and scant international attention. It is the public who lost from this. Those who are not linked in on social media.
It is a revealing and not happy reflection of how mainstream media approaches Native issues. It is old school, colonial, paternalistic and, for lack of a better word, racist. Luckily, unlike at the time of Oka or the Wounded Knee Occupation, there is now social media. Things happen, without making the mainstream news. In fact, mainstream media outlets are on the verge of irrelevancy. Events such as The Journey of Nishiyuu do not require their stamp of legitimacy to have impact.
The digital moccasin telegraph was there from the first steps of the Nishiyuu Journey. It is the new news. The youth on this trek accomplished more than the mainstream media will ever acknowledge. Their legacy will live long while the media outlets fade into obscurity. That is not a bad thing.