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Giant’s Dream

It doesn’t really matter George Macaulay Trevelyn was a British historian who died early in the 20th century. What does matter for these scribbles is he left us a dandy quotation regarding the benefits of walking that I swiped off the Internet.

Giant's Dream

BY HAROLD N. WALTERS

It doesn’t really matter George Macaulay Trevelyn was a British historian who died early in the 20th century.

What does matter for these scribbles is he left us a dandy quotation regarding the benefits of walking that I swiped off the Internet: ‘I have two doctors, my left leg and my right’.

It’s no revelation walking is good for your health; that walking heals.

It isn’t unique, nor is it surprising when we learn someone in the province or in the country is setting off on a walk in aid of something.

Frequently, someone or other is lacing up his boots – yes, or her boots, but it’s some nuisance having to be gender specific – and walking, walking, walking off on some altruistic journey.

Other than the nature of the landscape traversed, what lifts those walks above the vagaries of ‘someone/something’, what makes each of those numerous walks unique, is the individual trekker and the particular cause the walk is in aid of.

In February 2009, Michel ‘Giant’ Antane walked from Sheshatshiu to Natuashish to draw attention to the toll diabetes is taking on the Innu of Labrador.

‘Giant’s Dream: A Healing Journey Through Nitassinan’, published by Creative, is Nikashant Antane’s account of his nephew’s journey.

Bet your socks some interviewer asked Giant the source of the idea for his walk. More than likely he answered with the truth: “It came to me in a dream.”

Long before any interviews Giant told his uncle Nikashant about the dream:

“This old man told me to get up and help out the people. He said I should walk from Sheshatshiu to Natuashish to help the people who have diabetes.”

Not only did Giant hope his walk would shed healing light on the damage diabetes was doing to his people, but also he hoped his walk would cure some of his personal ills.

Unlike some members of his immediate family, Giant did not suffer from diabetes. He was, however, shouldering the weight of miseries stemming from troubles with drugs and alcohol.

Overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, he’d several times attempted suicide. It came to pass in the middle of a Labrador winter, Giant stowed supplies on his toboggan and commenced his dream-walk, north from Sheshatshiu to Natuashish.

Did he achieve his aim? More than he’d ever … well, dreamed.

A large part of this book is a photo essay – full-paged, splendid snaps –  of Giant’s trek. The pictures, as well as the text, underscore the curative nature of Michel Antane’s odyssey.

Have a look. In one photo, Giant’s girlfriend, Kat Piercey, is centered in the foreground. The image of Giant trudging across the icescape of Lake Melville, dressed in the pale canvas jacket and pants stitched by his grandmother especially for this venture, is a pinpoint disappearing into the snowy, distant vanishing point.

It’s as if the tormented young man is being swallowed into a crucible of cleansing cold.

Another picture shows Giant, apparently waist-deep in snow, hauling his toboggan through a stand of scrawny trees. Perhaps by the time this photo was taken, Giant’s physical strength was already being renewed, his muscles flexing with revived strength and stamina as his labour sweated residual toxins of booze and drugs from his system.

Perhaps the daily toil of the one step after another of his two doctors was by now generating healing. Perhaps.

Of course, there are pictures of Giant at the end of his walk, pictures in which he is noticeably lean and fit, smiling triumphantly; deservedly so, appearing proud of his accomplishments. During his walk, Giant drew strength from the grandmother who raised him, especially from her stories about their ancestral way of life.

One of his grandmother’s stories offers an interesting – and not to be scoffed at – explanation of why the cod population around Newfoundland declined. It was because Newfoundlanders lacked the respect that ought to be shown for wildlife.

She pointed to screech-ins as being astoundingly disrespectful, mocking the fish and offending Mistnaku, the Master of the Water Dwellers.

Granny’s explanation is as good as others I’ve heard for the decline of cod stocks. B’ys, I’m with Granny.

Since his original walk, Giant has led a number of other ‘healing/fund-raising’ walks, heightening awareness about diabetes and promoting the rejuvenating results of living off the land.

Only the other day sure, I saw Giant on the evening news.

ghwalters@persona.ca

Geographic location: Labrador, Lake Melville

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