MUSKRAT DAM First Nation – It was just another day in Muskrat Dam, or so I thought. I was out ski-dooing on the winter road between Muskrat Dam and Round Lake on Saturday afternoon, about 32 km from Muskrat Dam in the middle of nowhere. I saw a gentlemen walking.
My first thought was that he must be lost or broken down, because I did not expect someone to be walking all this way. I was wrong, fifty-year-old Garry Sugarhead from Kingfisher First Nation had started his long journey in Pickle Lake 256 km south on January 19 2016 making his way to several northern communities.
Garry is walking and jogging about 70- 90km each day only stopping when it gets dark and pulling a sleigh with him which consists of tea and teapot, water, healthy snacks, sleeping bag, a change of clothes and some winter gear.
Gerry says “Many people offer help or want to drive me but I don’t accept unless I am tired and it is only for 1- 2km and then I want to start again”.
So far Garry has stopped in Round Lake First Nation, and just arrived in Muskrat Dam First Nation, where he will stay until Monday, and then make his way to Bearskin Lake First Nation, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Angling Lake and ending his journey home in Kingfisher Lake First Nation.
Garry says he tries to not walk on Sundays because he likes to go to church and get blessed by the elders for strength on his journey.
This is Garry’s third year doing this journey, but his first time on this route from Pickle Lake, Round Lake, Muskrat Dam, Bearskin Lake, KI, Angling Lake, and Kingfisher Lake, a total of about 500 kms.
Garry said his first time was the hardest because he was not the healthiest. He had knee problems, but walking helps and no longer has knee problems. He says that by walking with the Creator and the animals has helped his healing and connecting back to the traditional land.
Many have asked Garry why he is doing this, his response is simple; to raise awareness of drugs and alcohol abuse, but also suicide.
Garry wants people within the communities to know that the pain and suffering goes away and to sweat it out, stating that sweating helps because it cleans your body and mind.
Each community welcomes Sugarhead and provides him with meals and a place to rest up. While in the communities Garry likes to talk to students and Suboxone clients about the possibilities of becoming clean and off the Suboxone program.
“You have to help yourself to get off the program, have to start somewhere, maybe start walking,” says Garry.
In some First Nations communities, prescription drug abuse is between 70 – 80%. That means that people from ages 12-80 years of age are addicted. A lot of the communities that offer the Suboxone program do not have any after care programs yet, which results in clients staying on Suboxone for years when it should only be used to help get clean.
Garry is hoping to raise awareness and get after care programs set up in First Nations Communities.
I was able to join Garry for part of his journey, as we walked across the Severn River, 4km across. I got to hear the importance of this awareness walk. Garry believes that it is very important for people to reconnect not only with themselves but with the land, and listen as it guides you.
Approaching the last stretch Garry asked if we could pray, as we did I could feel the connection to the land and an overwhelming feeling of happiness that he talked about as he reaches each community.
That is a feeling and an experience I will never forget. I promised Garry that I would get his message heard and I plan to do just that.
Garry left Muskrat Dam First Nation at 6am January 25, 2016 and walked across 91km to Bearskin Lake in 14 hours. That is truly amazing.