'I really want to help people': Peawanuck man walking to Moose Factory

·4 min read

A Peawanuck man is going to walk more than 600 kilometres from his home community to Moose Factory to raise awareness about various issues.

Sam Hunter, 55, originally tried to start his journey last week but had to return home due to a family emergency. He is planning to leave Peawanuck again on Thursday, March 18.

There are three reasons why he’s doing it.

The first reason is to raise awareness about diabetes. Hunter used to have high sugar levels and took about 15 pills a day plus insulin injections. With a proper diet, he said it’s gotten better and he doesn’t take as many pills now.

Going back to the traditional diet and eating vegetables, it’s possible to curb the illness, he said. Hunter’s diet includes a lot of fish, moose, caribou and lots of vegetables. He also doesn’t eat any packaged, canned or flour products.

Hunter recalled how he once had an appointment at a hospital in Moose Factory where he saw about a dozen of people with amputated legs sitting with prosthetics. Over the last few years, that encounter made him think about diabetes.

“It really amazed me,” he said. “It’s the environment and you can change the environment. If people eat nutritious food, it can heal their bodies. They can be healthy.”

By meeting people along the way and talking to them about how to prepare food, Hunter hopes to bring understanding and encourage people to change their diet.

Another reason for walking is climate change. Hunter said the landscape has been changing, the permafrost has been melting and the wildlife behaviour has changed.

“The new species are coming, pelicans, mountain lions, garden snakes and a few other birds that we’ve never seen before. And some of our birds are gone now, maybe they’re moving higher to the Arctic,” he said. “We need to start planning for the future … We used to have two months of warm weather, now we have warmer longer seasons.”

He also wants to attract attention to the Ring of Fire exploration activities. Hunter said many people up the coast live in poverty. Before any development starts, the quality of life in Indigenous communities needs to improve first, Hunter said.

“Most of the Indigenous communities have a boil water advisory, some of them for decades,” he said. “Everybody wants to work at mines but we could go into tourism or business ... It creates more economic development opportunities because these communities have nothing, they’re poor and a lot of them don’t have the skills to be able to create jobs. We always negotiate with the government or the companies with benefit agreements but those things are all like breadcrumbs. Nothing to create for the future.”

This is the first time Hunter is heading Moose Factory on foot, although he has travelled there by boat and skidoo before.

The route he’s taking is about 466 kilometres to Attawapiskat from Peawanuck and another 193 kilometres to Moose Factory.

A two-year-old Siberian Husky called Chase is accompanying him to help pull the sled and alert him at night if animals are approaching.

On his sled, he has a small tent, snowshoes, fuel, food, a small stove, matches, flares and guns to protect himself from the animals, utensils, safety equipment, a satellite phone and cameras to record and take pictures, a small saw, extra clothes, dog food and a sleeping bag.

Hunter plans to get up while it’s dark, have breakfast and then start walking. He usually sets up a tent an hour before it gets dark in order to gather wood. After a few nights sleeping in a tent, he said he got used to the cold.

“It depends on the conditions when the snow is deep or soft, I take a lot of breaks. But if the snow’s really hard, you can walk for a long time without taking a break,” he said.

Once his journey is completed, Hunter doesn’t plan to walk all the way back. Instead, he wants to take transportation to get back home as the snow will be gone by late April, he said.

Hunter expects that the walk to Moose Factory will take him about a month. Along the way, he looks forward to meeting people. He also created a podcast where he wants to upload some interviews and raise more awareness that way.

“I really want to go because I really want to help people … that’s really important for me. If I change the life of a few people, it will mean a lot to me,” he said.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com